Volunteer hunters will be allowed into NSW national parks from October, but only as part of managed culls under NPWS control whose rules will be the “strictest in Australia”.
“No volunteer can be in a national park unless they are participating in a planned pest control program, scheduled and managed by NPWS,” NSW Environment Minister Robin Parker said.
The program will not be comparable to the system licensed hunters had enjoyed in NSW state forests until the Game Council was scrapped today.
“The program will be similar to our hazard reduction operations, which use volunteers with a high level of training and competency, which is equivalent to that held by professional staff.
“Strict controls coupled with planning and direction by NPWS staff will enable more effective management of pest animals in national parks, with safety paramount in the design of the program.”
The program was developed after the Shooters and Fishers Party successfully navigated legislation through NSW parliament that opened national parks to recreational hunters.
However, a campaign by the Greens, National Parks Association and other organisations, along with the controversy that embroiled the Game Council over allegations of illegal hunting by two of its members, delayed the process by more than a year.
It also appears to have led to the development of a program much more restrictive than was anticipated by the S&F and hunters generally.
Rather than operating independently at times of their choosing, hunters can only participate when the National Parks and Wildlife Service “calls upon the services of licensed and experienced volunteers to assist them in carrying out pest animal control,” Ms Parker said.
Initially, the program will be tested in 12 parks, and if it proves successful it will be rolled out in another 75, fulfilling the government’s commitment made when the legislation first passed.
There is no guarantee that this will happen, though.
“There will be a review and report back to Cabinet before any further roll-out of the program,” Ms Parker said.
There will be two hunting methods employed, according to whether the operation is occurring in areas zoned either A or B.
In Zone A, “volunteers will be part of the NPWS team and working shoulder to shoulder with experienced NPWS staff,” Ms Parker said.
In Zone B, she said, “experienced and trained volunteers are supervised by NPWS staff. This will include induction and daily safety briefings. Detailed reporting, data collection and debriefing requirements will also apply. Site specific shooting plans with detailed maps will direct operations, with these being approved by NPWS regional managers consistent with regional pest strategies.”
Similar programs have been used in Victoria and South Australia, often with good results against feral animals.