Taking aim in national parks

COLUMN - A green view by John Jeayes

FOR those people who thought National Parks belong to the nation, it has become something of a shock to find they do not.

Well at least in NSW they do not; they belong to the Shooters and Fishers Party.

If you thought shooting in the Oxley Wild Rivers NP was too far away to be of concern you had better think again.

North East Forest Alliance spokesman Dailan Pugh said: “The Shooter’s Game and Feral Animal Control Amendment Bill 2012 allows amateur shooting in al national parks, except for 48 listed parks and reserves around Sydney, and those parts of parks that are declared wildernesses or declared world heritage.

"It will be up to the Environment Minister to agree to whichever ones the Shooters want. A purely political decision.

“This makes 94 per cent of NSW’s 799 national parks, nature reserves, and State conservation areas potentially available for shooting rather than the 10 per cent claimed by Premier O’Farrell two weeks ago.

"When Barry O'Farrell claimed only 79 conservation reserves would be opened up for amateur shooting, it is apparent he knew amendments to the Game and Feral Animal Control Act 2002 would apply to 751 of the State’s 799 national parks, nature reserves and State conservation areas."

The 79 parks are named as being for "immediate consideration” for declaration while procedures are worked out. After that six months interim period the immediacy will be over and the law then allows for additions.

In a video posted online, Robert Borsak of the Shooters and Fishers said hunting would ''eventually'' be declared in 751 parks.

''There are 780, 790 national parks in NSW, all of which, except about 40, will be eventually declared for hunting,'' Mr Borsak said in the interview, conducted at the government-sponsored Shot Expo for shooters and hunters.

And who has control of which parks shooters may shoot in?

The Environment Minister Robyn Parker. This is the same woman who, in answering a question about future use of our national parks by shooters from Ryan Park in the Upper House, said:

“The policy of the NSW government is clear: hunting in national parks is not permitted. I say that very slowly for the slow learner on the Opposition backbench.

"Parks receive over 35 million visits per year and we provide among other things facilities for visitors to our State, and I advise the member opposite that shooting is not compatible with visitations to our national parks.

"The member has wasted yet another question. For the benefit of those opposite I repeat that the policy of the NSW government is clear: Hunting in national parks is not and will not be permitted.”

I wonder what the slow learners of this State think of the credibility of the NSW Coalition now.

Mr O’Farrell longs for day he does not have to deal with the Shooters and Fishers, but in the meantime he has abandoned his non–core promise of never caving in to their demands to get his legislation through.

Pro-shooting comments online suggest that shooting in the 450 State Forests to which the Game Council has access has not caused a visitor death so far.

True, if you do not count some poor guy’s dog up at Doubleduke SF near Evan’s Head, but that may be because few of the public are game to go wandering around in State forests anymore.

One writer commenting on 'A green view' said she lives next to a State Forest and her access is through it, but she has never been notified when shooters will be in there and stays indoors when she hears shots.

In New Zealand one lady was killed by a shooter mistaking her head torch for a deer or possum’s eye glinting in the spot light.

Countries with a history of recreational shooting have a higher incidence of tragedies like this.

According to the International Hunter Education Association, about 1000 people in the US and Canada are accidentally shot by hunters every year, and just under 100 of those accidents are fatalities.

Most victims are hunters, but non-hunters are also sometimes killed or injured. Although some other forms of recreation cause more fatalities, hunting is one of the few activities that endangers the entire community, and not just the willing participants.

Game Council members will wear fluro orange vests so they don’t shoot each other, which seems rather hypocritical from a public safety point of view.

The ironic part about this is that ground shooting of feral animals is inefficient.

The only way to control feral animals is through a coordinated response with a combination of aerial shooting, baiting, trapping, mustering and some ground shooting.

Ground shooting in fact tends to disperse animals and make them more wary.

Shooters have nothing to gain by shooting out feral animals like deer.

Deer have been given “game” status and shooters actually have a no take season and usually hunt the males for antler trophies.

The males are not the key to breeding as long as a few survive. The recreational shooters' blood sport relies on plenty of game animals surviving so there is no way they want to kill them out.

It seems not even all hunters and gun dealers are comfortable with what the Shooters and Fishers Party has done.

I think the Cudgegong Valley Hunting Club summed up the situation when it slammed the new laws allowing recreational hunting of feral animals in national parks in labelling the changes as “absolute madness”.

“It’s not a case of if but when someone gets shot that it will come back to haunt the lot of us,” said club treasurer and Mudgee gun dealer, Jim Pirie.

“We’re interested in shooting feral animals, for sure, but we’re not interested in shooting people.” (Mudgee Guardian, June 15).

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