Rangers: how we hurt their feelings

NSW national park rangers are promoting their feelings and beliefs as reasons to oppose hunting, revealing the true depth of their ignorance and their closed-minded attitudes.

The Public Service Association in NSW last week released the results of a survey of rangers, trotting out opinions, impressions and beliefs without a semblance of scientific or statistical content that might give them credibility.

The survey would have been left to rot on the PSA website , failing to do more than make anti-hunting rangers feel good about themselves, except that a Fairfax reporter ran with it over the weekend. Ben Cubby doesn’t seem to mind going for the faddish environmental story over a factually sound one. His story went to publications all over NSW and beyond, spreading the PSA’s propaganda without question or comment. It was about as balanced as an elephant on a see-saw.

The survey is pathetically easy to discredit, and even a cub reporter could have provided balance to some of the more outrageous statements.

Let’s start with the PSA’s strongest line of attack: evidence of illegal hunting activities. No one denies this happens. Legitimate hunters decry it as much as rangers. Maybe I should put this in a way the PSA might understand. Unions and unionists have a long history of bullying, embezzlement, mafia links, bribery and other crime and corruption, right up to today. Should we ban the PSA as a result?

No, you police the law-breakers and let society’s good people carry on. Having additional law-abiding eyes and ears in the bush simply adds to our chances of stopping illegal activities in national parks.

“Oh, but I don’t feel safe with guns in parks,” they rangers cried. And perhaps when they were children they didn’t feel safe when the light went out, but there were never monsters under the bed. All the evidence from interstate and overseas proves rangers and park users will be safe. Statistically, hunting is one of the safest outdoor activities there is. Being a hunter with a full understanding of how it is, I’ve been in forests with more than a dozen other hunters in close proximity, shots ringing out from all directions, and it didn’t even occur to me to feel unsafe. Because I was not in danger. And the NSW system will undoubtedly be even safer than that.

The survey was released at the same time as authorities from states where hunting is permitted in national parks were scheduled to brief NSW NPWS representatives on their experiences – a process intended to allay rangers’ fears by spelling out how successful and safe hunting has been interstate. But why wait for the facts when the PSA has gossip and innuendo to spread?

“Not one respondent believes hunting will be good for carrying out their jobs, or for the safety of other park users.” What were they expecting, field assistants for rangers and personal guardians for park users?! Fact is, we won’t be bad for the them in their jobs nor a danger to anyone.

Here’s another gem: “Recreational hunting has been taking place for over 150+ years for rabbits and foxes and they are still not under control. Victorian parks have hunting for 20 years and they are shooting more ferals than when they started.”

That fool wasn’t listening, was he? It’s about collaborative efforts if you want eradication. Besides, how long has the NPWS been poisoning, trapping and shooting while ferals have been booming? Hypocrisy is very unbecoming.

The same respondent concluded: “Its [sic] a well known practice that hunters like to manage the animals that they like to shoot – they don’t want to remove their recreational activity.” Yes, indeed. That’s why the NSW Game Council has a deer management system. It’s why I don’t eradicate the feral goats at the back on my property, which I use as a resource.

But to think that we only take that approach is ridiculous. Look at how successfully hunters have been when given an eradication task in conjunction with other control methods in areas where the aim was to wipe out ferals. Of course, 100% eradication is often impossible, even using all the tools in the pest-control cupboard, but when we’re given a job to do we do it well.

But it’s up to national park management to work with us if they want to make the most of such programs. Thankfully, the PSA and the rangers are not NPWS management. They can whinge and moan and believe and feel all they like, but we will hunt in NSW national parks. As I’ve said before, we will prove them wrong.

But what really irks me is the way parts of the media still peddle the anti-hunting line without question. It’s such a refreshing change to see Triple J take a professional and measured approach to the topic (see this story) and ironic that the experienced old stager, Fairfax, looks so amateur and biased with reporters like Cubby running around. Even ABC News picked up on the survey today and ran with it.




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Mick Matheson

Mick grew up with guns and journalism, and has included both in his career. A life-long hunter, he has long-distant military experience and holds licence categories A, B and H. In the glory days of print media, he edited six national magazines in total, and has written about, photographed and filmed firearms and hunting for more than 15 years.