The way is open for firearms to be displayed at HuntFest in Narooma on the NSW Far South Coast in June 2014 after a variation on the festival’s five-year licence was approved by the Eurobodalla Shire Council last night.
In what has been praised as a common sense decision, council voted five-three in favour of the variation that will see hunting simulators and introduction courses to archery along with firearms displays.
Organiser Dan Field from the South Coast Hunters Club said he was pleased with the result and hoped that it paved the way for the festival to grow.
“There was a lot of misinformation as well as rhetoric from the Greens but we had six people including two independent people speak for the event,” he said.
“They argued that if you took the words ‘hunting’ or ‘rifles’ out of it then it was a straight out sporting event and it would be discriminatory to pick on licenced shooters.
“We also heard that there was a great benefit to the community and if you took out the rhetoric there was nothing wrong or illegal about it.
“One hotelier reported that he had a 38 per cent boost during last year’s HuntFest and other motel and hotel owners reported increases in business. At a time of the year when tourism is low and they’re struggling with the marine parks that have heavily restricted our fishing waters, this is good for them.
“There were a couple of times I thought I was in the Twilight Zone. There were some very nonsensical arguments against and there was little understanding of the licensing system.
“The Greens argued that we enjoy our sport too much and one teacher tried to argue that firearms promoted bullying. A charter boat operator argued that while it was okay for her to kill native fish it wasn’t okay to hunt feral animals.
“But the five councillors who voted for the variation saw through the hype and misinformation. When one person tried to tell them the majority of people didn’t want HuntFest there, one councillor proved that wasn’t true.”
Cr Liz Innes revealed that she had received contact from 32 people opposing the event, but more than 70 in support.
Now with council approval, HuntFest will invite Australian firearms distributors to be a part of the show, but Mr Field stressed that they would be balanced with the many other aspects of hunting.
“We’re hoping the distributors will bring down their latest models for us to have a look at, but it’s not a gun show,” he said.
“We think that will be a huge boost to the show and we’re hoping that will show in the numbers we get next year. We surveyed many of the 1200 we got last year and 98 per cent all said they wanted to see firearms at the show, but I should stress that the show is not all about that.
“You can’t beat the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia who puts on Shot Expo and that’s the best gun show in the country. It’s never our intention to compete with that so we’ll be restricting the numbers.
“We want to show there are many other aspects to hunting and want to raise awareness, while having a firearms display will round out the experience so we’re glad common sense has prevailed.
“We’ve been through the licencing process with council twice now and the score is HuntFest 2, Greens 0.”