R-licence holders such as Anthony Brown may be providing much greater value to the state than previously thought. (Pic courtesy Game Council)

Millions: the true value of hunting

Volunteer hunters did the equivalent of $2.4 million worth of feral and game animal control in NSW state forests alone during 2011-12.

The figure was provided by Forests NSW, which estimates it would have had to pay that amount to commercial operators to cull the 18,485 feral and game animals that R-licence holders killed during the year.

It indicates that previous estimates of the value of the Game Council, which licenses the ‘conservation hunters’, may have dramatically understated.

The figure dwarfs the overall savings to the state government of $937,000 estimated in the Game Council’s public benefit assessment.

There were 14,000 R-licences held as of April 2012, plus over 3000 people with G-licences that allow for game hunting but not on public land. All up, these hunters killed over 735,000 feral and game animals on public and private land in the 12 months to April 2012.

Based on the Forests NSW costing, that translates to a commercial value of almost $100 million.

Of course, a direct comparison is not entirely valid, given that not all hunting is carried out with the same goals as commercial operators, but it puts new perspective on both the actual and potential value of hunting to NSW and the rest of Australia.

“Imagine what it really is if you extrapolate it over the nearly 200,000 licensed shooters in NSW,” Shooters and Fishers Party MLC Robert Borsak said.

These figures reflect only the value of animals taken, and are a fraction of the overall value of the hunting industry to the economy as a whole.

Mr Borsak elicited the Forests NSW costings in answer to a question he asked in state parliament.

“The truth is that the feral animal take Australia-wide would easily top 15,000,000 over six years,” he said.

“Conservation hunters’ contribution to the long-term sustainable reduction of ferals is a huge, long-ignored fact that makes so-called ‘professional programs’ a costly, failed joke.”

The Forests NSW figures also revealed conservation hunters killed 457 wild dogs in state forests between March 2006 and September 2012, a period when no professionals were hired by the organisation to tackle the problem.

Wild dogs are a huge concern in many parts of Australia, and Byron Shire Council, for example, has recently announced it will pour another $20,000 into a trapping program that has so far caught 58 dogs, as well as 21 foxes and five cats.

As opposition to poisoning in some areas grows, shooting and trapping are becoming more important to integrated control methods, as demonstrated by a fox program on the NSW South Coast.

In the New England region last week, it took the effort of locals to finally hunt down and shoot dead a very large wild dog that had killed and maimed hundreds of sheep over a three-year period.




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Mick Matheson

Mick grew up with guns and journalism, and has included both in his career. A life-long hunter, he has long-distant military experience and holds licence categories A, B and H. In the glory days of print media, he edited six national magazines in total, and has written about, photographed and filmed firearms and hunting for more than 15 years.