Instead of grilling the Game Council, the Greens were ‘carved up’ by its CEO during questioning for a parliamentary inquiry, where hunting received strong backing.
Liberal MLC Scot MacDonald tweeted that he “almost felt sorry” for Greens MLC Cate Faerhmann after she was “carved up” by Game Council boss Brian Boyle.
“Greens fighting old battles,” Mr MacDonald signed off.
Both politicians are part of the NSW parliament’s Inquiry into Public Land Management, which last Friday interviewed a range of land managers, including representatives of Biosecurity NSW, state forests, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Game Council.
Hunting and shooting were brought up many times in the hearing, which also covered a number of other topics.
Most witnesses supported hunting and shooting, or at worst were neutral about it.
Faehrmann tried to discredit hunting as a form of pest control, asking questions that she hoped would fuel anti-hunting arguments, but she failed.
In response to one of Faehrmann’s questions, John Tracy of Biosecurity NSW said shooting in state forests “certainly can be part of an integrated program, and … that is what we are encouraging takes place”.
“The use of hunters in any context can be seen as part of a strategy,” Biosecurity’s Bruce Christie said in reply to a question from Labor inquiry member Luke Foley, who has been critical of the NSW government’s moves to legalise hunting in national parks.
The Greens MLC suggested the shooting of foxes had the potential to increase fox populations, but Mr Tracy brushed aside the question, saying Faerhmann was “not realistic” in suggesting that shooting would be conducted on its own to control pests.
Biosecurity NSW confirmed that feral populations had increased thanks to the end of the drought, while Brian Boyle stated feral populations had fallen in state forests.
Faerhmann latched onto this, asking for evidence from Boyle, who was able to use Hampton and Pennsylvania state forests as examples.
“The numbers and signs of the animals are not there anymore,” he said. “If you drive round Hampton, you used to see deer rubs all round the edge of the road six years ago – if you are educated about these things. You do not see them anymore. You do not see the deer runs coming down and across the track.”
The Greens have previously accused the Game Council wanting to populate the state with ‘feral’ animals such as deer, and Faerhmann asked Boyle why the Game Council continues “to campaign against wild deer being listed as a feral pest species”.
Boyle’s reply exposed the lack of understanding of the Game Council by the Greens: “The [Game and Feral Animal Control] Act gives us our direction and policy. The Act states that they are game animals.”
He also corrected her when she stated deer were listed as a ‘key threatening process’ in NSW, pointing out that the declaration was made on the basis of only one species, Rusa, which is not a particularly scientific way of doing so.
Boyle also countered accusations by the Greens of a lack of policing of licensed hunters as well as of illegal hunting, explaining that the fisheries department had about the same ratio of enforcement officers to fishing licences as is the case for hunting.
He added that close ties with the police ensured effective policing, and that better use of intelligence gathered on social media had resulted in prosecutions.
Mr Boyle used his presentation to the inquiry to back hunting’s role in the management of public land.
“The best part of the community that can actually control animals in NSW is hunters,” he said.
“We have 148,000 people who have firearms licences with recreational hunting agreement control. If we can engage them and go to a new paradigm where we have broad-based ongoing control, that is much better than pulse control and just declaring something as a pest.”
The full transcript of the hearing is available on the NSW parliamentary website.