Scrapping the NSW Game Council was an act of political bastardry. It was also inevitable. And it may end up being good.
The one positive thing NSW hunters can retain is that the government appears to have committed to a continuation of recreational hunting on public land, but not for a little while.
I’m not talking about national parks, either, because that’s turned out to be a dud deal. We’ll come back to that in a minute.
When the Game Council was established, it was the best thing NSW hunters had had since a time most shooters can’t remember, because there’d be nowhere to hunt unless you had access to private property.
The Game Council opened up vast tracts of land, and all you had to do was get licensed and then book in to a forest for the days you wanted to hunt. Victorians shook their heads, but then they live in a more enlightened state; many others Aussie were envious.
Could NSW possibly get a more Victorian-style system? We can only hope, but it’s not likely. Yet even if we end up with a less controversial body – or bodies – running the same system as before, we’ll be better off. Looking at the government response to Dunn’s report, it appears we’ll get a streamlined, more secure licensing set-up with more widespread access to licensing outlets, and better managed feral control programs.
Most of all, taking the politics out of it will certainly help our public image, though you can guarantee the Greens will continue their whining because they have stated they want recreational hunting banned.
And that means the politics that surrounds hunting will not go away. We are heavily under siege here – the animal libbers and Greens hate us, the police want us disarmed, and the major parties still believe there are votes to be gained by “getting tough” on guns, regardless of who the criminals are.
This is why it’s vital we rally and fight on. The major parties are losing votes because of the way we’ve been treated, and Barry O’Farrell is the leader who’s feeling it most. The Shooters and Fishers Party in NSW has made huge inroads for hunters and shooters, to such a degree that instead of complaining that we’ve got nowhere to hunt we’re complaining about the management of our sport being transferred to new government departments. The S&F has brought us a long way.
The S&F is meeting with O’Farrell over the current mess and demanding a say in what happens next, but everyone with a NSW R- and G-licence can be part of that simply by keeping their licence and letting their local MP know they want to use it. And, of course, that they paid for it.
The longer the government dicks around working out what to do, the longer they have no income from new or renewed licences, and they’re worth about $1.5 million a year.
We have to let them know we want to hunt, and if we don’t get that message across we can’t complain if we end up with all NSW public-land hunting going the way of the newly announced program for national parks: a highly restrictive system that’s only focussed on culling.
Don’t get me wrong, I reckon those programs are great and I want to get involved, too. But it’s not hunting in its purest sense, it’s not being alone in the bush to do your own thing, it’s not recreational hunting.
Hunters may end up better off after all this settles down, but we could end up much worse off and the national parks model tells us how. So keep you hunting licence, let you local MP know you want to use it and once this is over encourage more of your friends to get their own licence.
There’s strength (and votes) in numbers.