After ABC TV’s Four Corners programs raised a number of issues about hunter behaviour in its report “The Hunting Party”, the NSW Game Council issued this detailed response.
The ABC 4Corners report titled ‘The Hunting Party’, aired on Monday 10 June 2013, featured concerns raised by the Maragle community about public land hunting in the area.
Game Council understands that this is an emotional issue and takes the residents’ concerns seriously. Along with the NSW Police Force, we have been working proactively in the area to address those concerns.
Illegal hunting is criminal behaviour and can impact heavily on communities. Game Council promotes responsible and orderly hunting and works with other agencies to prevent and enforce such behaviour.
For Game Council to assist in matters involving illegal hunting, the community needs to report incidents immediately to NSW Police and Game Council, and to provide as much information as possible. Many of the incidents referred to by the Maragle community were not reported in a timely manner, limiting Game Council’s ability to investigate these matters. Some of the alleged incidents are said to have occurred prior to the establishment of Game Council under the Game and Feral Animal Control Act, and prior to the commencement of regulated public land hunting.
The Act gives Game Council Inspectors limited authority to pursue matters on private land. Game Council cannot prosecute offences involving trespass, break and enter, malicious damage of property or personal safety matters. Authority to pursue and prosecute these matters rests with the NSW Police Force.
It is important to note that certain Forestry Corporation staff and every NSW Police Force Officer are authorised Inspectors under the Act, and that surveillance and compliance extends beyond those Inspectors employed by Game Council.
It is also important to note that, of the incidents raised by the Maragle community, it is unreasonable to assume that NSW restricted game hunting licence (R-licence) holders are responsible for each and every instance. For example, in November 2012, three local men were issued fines relating to illegal hunting on private property – none of them had ever held an R-licence. The distinction between legal, licensed hunters and poachers, who fail to obtain the mandatory licences and permissions and repeatedly flout the law, must be emphasised.
Local MP Mr Greg Aplin has made representations on behalf of the Maragle community to the Minister for Primary Industries. A summary of correspondences is as follows:
1. Mr Aplin first wrote to the Minister on 18 July 2012, on behalf of Mr Richard Gill, a landholder bordering the Maragle State forest. This correspondence was referred to Game Council, and a reply was sent to Mr Aplin on 28 August 2012.
Each of the concerns raised by Mr Gill was responded to and Game Council invited Mr Gill to present any information or evidence he may have to both Game Council and NSW Police for further investigation and response.
Game Council also made amendments to written permissions to hunt in Maragle South State forest, which advised R-Licence holders not to approach local surrounding properties for hunting access.
2. The Minister for Primary Industries received further correspondence from Mr Aplin, dated 13 September 2012, containing a landholder petition and a list of 31 alleged incidents. The Minister instructed Game Council to investigate the incidents, and Game Council compiled a report with the assistance of NSW Police. The report was provided to Mr Aplin along with the Minister’s reply dated 24 January 2013. Game Council has since noted the residents’ complaints regarding the report.
A key finding was insufficient detail was available to allow for prosecution and enforcement of historical issues and that many of these alleged incidents had never been reported to NSW Police or Game Council.
Immediate responses were implemented in the area, including increased patrol activity and the installation of covert surveillance cameras.
The Written Permission conditions were again updated and in the lead up to deer season hunters were requested to limit their non-hunting companions to one person.
3. The regional Game Council Game Manager attended a community meeting alongside residents, local Police and Forestry Corporation staff on Sunday 3 March.
It was at this meeting that Game Council was first made aware that the residents were unsatisfied with the responses provided in their petition.
The local Game Manager informed those present at the Tooma Community Hall meeting that he would prepare an illegal hunting ‘Bush Alert’ form specifically for the residents of Maragle Valley to provide rapid information to Game Council and NSW Police on illegal hunting and stressed the need for residents to report incidents of concern to both Game Council and NSW Police.
The form was produced and mailed out to all residents the following week. To date, Game Council has not received any completed forms.
4. Mr Aplin has since corresponded a further two times with the Minister, in letters dated 20 March and 2 April 2013.
The letters again list a variety of concerns spanning many years and Game Council is in the process of preparing a report to allow the Minister to respond appropriately.
Game Council is committed to investigating any report it receives and is proactively implementing new means to monitor activity in the area.
Game Council will liaise with residents in the area related to their specific allegations and where possible, undertake further inquiries.