ORGANISERS of an anti-hunting rally to be held in Bega next week have changed their roster of speakers after becoming concerned by the rally’s politicisation.
The No Hunting in National Parks rally was set to have the Greens MLC David Shoebridge as an official speaker, but changed tack this week.
One of the event organisers, Richard Barcham, told the BDN the group was “overwhelmed” by the response of politicians to the March 15 rally.
“We are just a group of concerned neighbours who don’t want this hunting to occur and we have been overwhelmed by the response both from private citizens, community groups, our local member Andrew Constance and from political parties,” Mr Barcham said.
“It was overwhelming, so with this in mind we have decided this is a non-political event and have asked Mr Shoebridge not to be an official speaker.”
A spokesperson for Mr Shoebridge said, “David was asked to speak at and participate in the rally some time ago, but that invitation was later withdrawn”.
“We respect the decisions of community groups about who they do or don’t want speaking at their events.”
Paul Farrell, another rally organiser, said “politicians have lots of platforms to get their views known”.
“This is a rally that has come from a strong feeling in the community that allowing amateur, recreational hunting in national parks is a bad decision,” he said.
The speakers for the rally will now include the local delegate for the Public Service Association (PSA), which represents workers in protected areas, a local representative of the community-based National Parks Association, and speakers on behalf of local community views.
In 2012 the State Government announced that 79 national parks and reserves in NSW would be open for amateur hunting of feral animals after Premier Barry O’Farrell made a deal with the Shooters and Fishers Party in order to help pass his electricity legislation.
In the South-East this will include Wadbilliga National Park and South East Forests National Park.
Hunting was set to being in April, but implementation of this policy has been delayed while there is a review into the Game Council, the body that regulates hunting in NSW.
“Just because the start of hunting has been delayed doesn’t mean there will be any pause in our continued action against bad policy decisions by the O’Farrell Government,” PSA industrial officer Geo Papas said.
“Implementing this policy will reportedly cost $19.2million over five years.
“This is at a time when over 350 jobs are being lost from the Office of Environment and Heritage, which includes the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, so this just doesn’t add up.
“If the government is fair dinkum about feral animal control it should be undertaking proven pest control programs like aerial shooting and baiting, not an ad hoc ground shooting policy that in reality is just there to provide recreation for hunters.”
Dan Field, president of the South Coast Hunters Club, disputes claims that ground shooting is ineffective.
“I do believe that licensed recreational hunters can provide effective feral animal control,” he said.
“Several years ago in Barrington Tops in NSW the aerial shooting experts left animals slowly dying, something a hunter would never do.
“I also don’t believe poisoning is an effective solution, as it is indiscriminate and some of these poisons have a half-life of 25 years.”
Mr Field said he couldn’t comment further on the debate because the guidelines relating having licensed recreational shooters in national parks hadn’t been released yet.
“We don’t know what the restrictions are yet, but I am sure recreational hunting will be heavily restricted,” he said.
The rally, which will start at Ayres Walkway in Bega next Friday at noon, will end at the local office of Andrew Constance on Carp St where the group will present a list of their concerns.
Mr Constance is unable to be in Bega due to a prior engagement in his role as Minister of Ageing and Disability Services.
“I have spoken to Paul Farrell and I’m happy to meet with members of this group at another time, my door is always open to them,” he said.
“However I’m conscious there are people coming to my office for other matters and I hope they are not disrupted and that it’s a peaceful rally.”
Mr Constance said he welcomed the review into the governance of the Game Council, which was brought about after a member of its executive was accused of illegal hunting activity.
Mr Constance also said he was “pleased” to hear that Mr Shoebridge was no longer the keynote speaker at rally.
“I think he and the Greens were just going to hijack the event with their own agenda.
“I understand many private citizens are just outright opposed to hunting in national parks, but I caution them against letting this issue being hijacked by the Greens.
“Don’t forget why this program was proposed, for feral animal eradication, which is for the benefit of landholders in this region.”