Serious concerns remain about the future of hunting in NSW as the state government shows little sign of supporting hunters against renewed pressure from anti-hunting groups to ban it.
The anti-hunting lobby has rallied after claiming a victory after the closure of the Game Council, and is starting to talk about permanently shutting down all recreational hunting on public land.
People attending “No Hunting in National Parks” workshops organised by the National Parks Association have been told the aim is to ban hunting in state forests, ban pig-dogging, ban bow hunting and ban the use of blackpowder firearms by hunters.
NPA spokesman Justin McKee appears very confident that not only will blackpowder and bows never be used on public again, but that hunting in state forests would not return to the old model.
According to people who attended the workshops, McKee’s certainty appears to be based on inside information from the Department of Primary Industries and the Office of Environment and Heritage.
Attendees were told that Environment Minister Robyn Parker has been in daily contact with McKee, who has run the organisation’s anti-hunting campaign, and that a number of anti-hunting organisations were part of the monthly NPWS meetings where they could push their agenda.
Groups such as the Australian Workers Union and the National Conservation Council are demanding that hunting on all public land follows the regime laid out for hunting in national parks, in which volunteer hunters are part of a planned and coordinated culling operation run by National Parks and Wildlife Service staff.
The adoption of this model in state forests would effectively kill off any chance for true recreational hunting by thousands of hunters who have no access to private property.
It may also end hunters’ involvement in culling programs, because if the model is adopted but is judged a failure in national parks, it is not likely the government would carry on with the program.
Strong doubts have been raised about whether the proposed trial of coordinated hunts in national parks will be allowed to succeed by the NPWS staff who will run them.
NPWS staff and the AWU, which represents rangers, made it clear they did not want hunters operating in national parks at all.
Since shutting down the Game Council with no notice last week, the O’Farrell government has issued assurances that licence holders may, in certain circumstances, get a refund, but it has done little to reassure hunters about their future.
The most positive comment came in a Game Council statement that the axing of the Game Council and transfer of some of its functions to the Department of Primary Industries, as well as the establishment of a Game Board, were partly to “acknowledge hunting as a legitimate recreational activity”.
Mr O’Farrell did not consult the hunting industry or the Shooters and Fishers Party before making his decision about the Game Council, and unlike the anti-hunting lobby it appears shooters have been specifically excluded from the process.
It has also been revealed that former Game Council chairman John Mumford did not even get a copy of the Dunn Report until 45 minutes after the organisation’s axing, by which time it’d already been reported in the media.
Council CEO Brian Boyle, who was on holiday at the time, reportedly found out about it when a hunter rang him, and he then had to learn more details from radio reports.