New dawn for NSW duck hunters

New duck hunting legislation has been approved by the NSW parliament, marking the long-awaited return of game-bird hunting to the state.

Previously limited to duck mitigation programs under a system laden with bureaucracy, bird hunting will now be accessible to hunters across the state.

However, the passage of the legislation does not mean hunting is legal now, and it will be some months before the new hunting system is put in place.

The bill passed the Legislative Council early this afternoon by 21 votes to 18 after incorporating a handful of amendments. It’s passage through the lower house late this afternoon was little more than a formality.

While a vast improvement over the mitigation system, the new hunting regime will still be limited by a number of factors, including being restricted only to private property where the landholder has a specific licence allowing birds to be hunted there.

In fact, the restrictions are strong enough that Premier Barry O’Farrell has been able to state that the new legislation does not legalise recreational duck hunting. 

There will be no traditional open and closed seasons. Hunting will instead be permitted where and when bird numbers are considered high enough to warrant it.

The bill changes details of the Game and Feral Animal Control Act and the National Parks and Wildlife Act to allow hunting of game birds on private property, but only subject to a number of conditions and licenses.

Under the existing bird mitigation program, shooters had to apply to both the NSW Game Council and National Parks and Wildlife Service before being licensed to hunt ducks, but all licensing and regulation will now fall only to the Game Council.

The SFP says this and other changes remove bureaucratic duplication between the NPWS and Game Council. Both the G and R licences issued by the council will be valid for game bird hunting, provided the holder qualifies.

Waterfowl identification tests will be used to ensure hunters are competent at differentiating bird species before being licensed, but the Game Council will administer the tests. Those who have already done the tests will not have to sit them again under the new system.

The Game Council will dictate when and where game birds can be hunted, ensuring that no population is put under additional stress during difficult times, but allowing quick responses when numbers are up, especially when landholders need help.

An SFP spokesman said the system would be “measured and scientific” in its approach to times and places for hunting of any species, and that it would cover all of NSW.

Three people, appointed by the minister, will form a committee to monitor the system, one from the Game Council, one from the Department of Primary Industries, and the other from the Office of Environment and Heritage. They will determine quotas.

Hunters may only operate on private land, and the owner or occupier of the land must have a native game bird management licence, which will also be issued by the Game Council. These licences will only be issued for “sustainable agricultural management” and preclude any commercial uses, such as the sale of ducks.

Hunters, however, will specifically be allowed to keep the birds they shoot, and they’ll be allowed to consume them or have them mounted.


Australian Shelduck or Mountain Duck (Tadorna tadornoides)
Australian Wood Duck or Maned Duck (Chenonetta jubata)
Black Duck or Pacific Black Duck (Anas superciliosa)
Blue-winged Shoveler or Australasian Shoveler (Anas rhynchotis)
Chestnut Teal (Anas castanea)
Grass Whistling Duck or Plumed Whistling Duck (Dendrocygna eytoni)
Grey Teal (Anas gibberifrons)
Hardhead Duck or White-eyed Duck (Aythya australis)
Pink-eared Duck (Malacorhynchus membranaceus)
Water Whistling Duck, Wandering Whistling Duck or Whistling or
Wandering Tree Duck (Dendrocygna arcuata)

Brown Quail (Coturnix ypsilophora)
Stubble Quail (Coturnix pectoralis)

Common Bronzewing Pigeon (Phaps chalcoptera)
Crested Pigeon (Ocyphaps lophotes)




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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.