Hunting will be permitted in NSW national parks after the Game and Feral Animal Control Amendment Act was passed late last night following several intense and sometimes bitter debates in parliament this week.
Both houses of NSW parliament have now signed off the law, but it will not come into effect for around six months as the infrastructure and other measures are put in place to allow hunters to stalk their first steps in national parks.
“We’ve had a big win,” Shooters and Fishers Party MLC Robert Borsak said.
“The legislation has finally passed and we will see 79 national parks being rolled out progressively over the next six months using the NSW Game Council model that has been highly successful in State Forests.
“We expect this program will yield good results in controlling game and feral animals.”
The Game Council will now have the task of expanding its system into the selected national parks, which number about 10% of the total parks in NSW but cover more than half of the total estate.
Not all of that area will be opened to hunters, and some more sensitive areas and those that are more heavily used by the public are expected to be declared as exclusion zones.
Other places will likely be restricted to bow hunting.
A level of resistance to the Game Council’s efforts is expected from within the National Parks and Wildlife Service, following criticism of hunting by the Public Service Association and some rangers.
However, this is unlikely to prevent the system being put in place.
The legislation, which the SFP has been pushing in one form or another for more than a decade, went through with only one amendment, which will effectively prevent councils from engaging R-licensed shooters to tackle pest animals on their lands.
The anti-gun lobby succeeded in fear-mongering over the Port Arthur massacre by concluding that this part of the legislation would allow hunters to easily obtain category D firearms such as semi-automatic centrefires.
Their logic was questioned by the Shooters and Fishers Party, which became the focus of abuse by the Greens and some Opposition members during debates.
The Greens’ Jeremy Buckingham accused SFP MLC Robert Brown of taking kickbacks, which angered Mr Brown so much he said it was a pity he couldn’t beat Buckingham to death.
Buckingham withdrew his remark and Brown apologised, but the debate also heard accusations against the Premier over the deal done with the SFP to sell the state’s power generators, as well as claims and counterclaims about all aspects of the legislation.
Buckingham also referred to the Port Arthur massacre before calling the SFP a “dangerous minority”.
The Greens tried to bring a raft of other amendments to the legislation but they were voted down.
The new law is expected to generate even more interest in NSW game hunting licences, available through the Game Council, partly because more land will be open to hunters but also because of the publicity currently surrounding the issue.
“We encourage all hunters in NSW and from interstate to buy game-hunting licences and participate in this excellent program,” Mr Borsak said.