Hunting for answers

MEMBERS of the National Parks Association Far South Coast branch met with NSW Environment Minister Robyn Parker on Thursday to outline concerns over allowing hunting in national parks.

NPA spokesman Doug Reckord thanked Ms Parker and Member for Bega Andrew Constance for a “generous allocation of time”, but said there was still a lot of work to do with shooting in national parks set to begin in March.

“The government’s approval for amateur hunting, derived as it was from political horse trading on an unrelated issue, was made without consultation with the public or park managers,” Mr Reckord said.

“We still have no information on how it is to be regulated beyond the Premier’s public assurances that it will be based on ‘scientifically planned’ and ‘targeted’ exercises.”

Concerns over how hunting in national parks would be regulated were further inflamed by last week’s suspension, over alleged illegal hunting, of the acting head of the Game Council – the body that will issue shooting licences under the government’s scheme.

Mr Reckord said the NPA was also concerned about public safety, warning casual public users of national parks could be put at risk by close proximity with hunters.

“Many recreational users will simply choose not to enter their parks if a group of amateur shooters is present,” he said.

“However small the risk of accident many users, and especially those with children, will decide any level of risk is unacceptable.

“Concerns have also been raised with us regarding gun-handling protocols if hunters are sharing camping grounds with other users and whether there will be any restrictions on alcohol.

“Our branch members request the O’Farrell government withdraw support for recreational hunting in NSW national parks and that a public inquiry on the issue be conducted before any decision is made to allow hunting in national parks.”

Mr Constance thanked the NPA for “their constructive suggestions” and said the state government is keen to hear from all stakeholders with ideas on how hunting in national parks could be better managed.

“Feedback from the meeting on Thursday is to make sure consultation is sound,” Mr Constance said.

“The key aspects of its success will be involving local knowledge and local input.”

Mr Constance said the hunting scheme’s plan of management provides “lots of scope for people to offer input”, particularly to National Parks and Wildlife Service Far South Coast regional manager Tim Shepherd, who Mr Constance said will be administering the initiative in this region.

“If this can be done well and with local input it will be very safe,” Mr Constance said.

“If we’re going to have volunteer hunting it needs to work in well with existing feral animal controls.

“We already have a process where contracted hunters go in to national parks and I would expect the same strident controls on volunteer hunters.

“It’s not a case of shooting at native fauna – there are very clear requirements.

“We want to send a loud message that no-one will tolerate illegal activities with firearms.”

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