New South Wales government starts trial of hunting in national parks

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Store Creek in Cocoparra National Park.
Image: Colin Killick.

On Friday afternoon, amateur shooters were briefed about a three-year-long trial of hunting in national parks of New South Wales, Australia. The meeting was held in Griffith near Cocopara Nature Reserve, where the first shooting operation of the trial was to occur on Saturday, targeting the feral goats.

The National Parks Wildlife Service (NPWS) has used aerial culls and baiting to reduce Cocoparra's goat population, but there are said to be thousands of goats at the reserve. The feral animals to be hunted in other reserves may include cats, deer, dogs, and pigs, beside goats — depending on the reserve.

Shooters in the supplementary pest control trial were to be closely supervised by rangers, as the trial was monitored and its effectiveness evaluated. In a partnership of NPWS and the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia (NSW) Inc, qualified volunteers were recruited, under the Sporting Shooters Association's hunting program. According to Mick O'Flynn, the Acting Director Park Conservation and Heritage with the NPWS, the four shooters selected for the first shooting operation received comprehensive safety and training instruction.

Following announcement of the close partnership of shooters with NWPS staff, the Greens cancelled planned picketing of the first shooting operation. However, State Greens MP (Member of Parliament) David Shoebridge warned, "This needs to be a government-run program, not run by the biggest gun lobby group in Australia". He called limiting the meeting to members of the Sporting Shooters Association "outrageous". Another concern raised by the Greens was the danger of armed people, not only to animals, but also to people visiting the national parks, should the shooters be unsupervised after the trial.

The trial was announced in the second half of 2013, though the plan has been significantly modified over time and has come to be regulated under the National Parks and Wildlife Act, in contrast with the original proposal of recreational hunting in national parks, as it was announced in May 2012 by New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell. This amendment of the Game and Feral Animal Control Act was part of a deal with the Shooters and Fishers Party. The government needed at least one vote from a Shooters and Fishers Party MP to pass electricity privatisation legislation, as both Labor and Greens opposed it. O'Farrell's plans to allow pest control by licensed individuals called for licencing by the Game Council of New South Wales.

Following a report sharply criticizing the Game Council, the government dissolved it in mid-2013, suspended hunting on public lands, and reconsidered the plan to allow amateur hunters into national parks — thus breaking the earlier promise to the Shooters and Fishers Party.


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