A proposed hunting festival has become a major election issue on the NSW South Coast after a battle erupted between Greens and Huntfest organisers.
With council elections coming up on 8 September, Eurobodalla hunters can make their vote count towards their sport because independent candidate Dan Field is also the man behind Huntfest and president of the South Coast Hunters Club.
The Eurobodalla Shire Council has already given in-principle support to Huntfest, which would be an annual event on the June long weekend at Narooma’s sports and leisure centre.
However, since the Greens latched onto the festival as an election issue, Mr Field says support seems to have disappeared, possibly while councillors wait to see which way the voting goes.
“Huntfest is the Greens’ biggest issue,” Field said. “They have come out with no other issue than that Eurobodalla is going to be the hunting capital of Australia.”
The Greens are even running a large advertising campaign in the local media, and had NSW Greens MP John Kaye stand alongside local Greens mayoral candidate Gabi Harding.
Their arguments use the same misleading language and scenarios the Greens have been pushing elsewhere.
“Such a festival every year is intended to promote hunting and to normalise this blood sport in the community,” Ms Harding said. “It will hand over our local forests to a minority gun-toting interest group.
“If Dan Field’s Hunting Festival is approved, the impacts on the local tourism-based economy will be severe. Residents will be shut out of public forests and a gun culture will become normalised.”
“I expected the Greens to come out,” Mr Field told ABC local radio, “but I was actually shocked at the way they’ve done it.”
He told listeners Huntfest would showcase the good work hunters had done, pointing out that licensed conservation hunters had removed 3.2 million feral and game animals in NSW, many more than had been removed by the NPWS despite millions of dollars being spent.
“The Greens can’t see that this will benefit us,” he told Sporting Shooter.
Mr Field says Huntfest will attract tourism to the region, which has recently lost a music festival and has lost many recreational fishers after the establishment of marine sanctuaries. Tourism is one of the area’s main forms of income.
He says tourism dropped by more than 30% after the implementation of marine parks throughout the Eurobodalla virtually put an end to recreational fishing there.
“We’ve got motels closing, we’ve got shops closing and I just heard about another one today – a local coffee shop is closing,” he said.
The Greens have refused to debate Field on other topics, including marine parks, tourism and the local land and environment plan.
A decade ago, Mr Field’s proposal for a shooting complex in the region was knocked back by the council.
He is determined to see Huntfest go ahead, though, and said that it was ironic that the publicity generated by the Greens has brought a huge amount of interest before the festival has even been approved.
“We’re still going to go ahead, even if we have to put it out on a private property.
“We’ve got our backs up now.”