Rhys Bosley operates the State Forest Hunting for Queensland campaign and has started a petition calling for the Queensland State Government to allow Queensland local councils, to sustainably manage deer in our state. The petition has been sponsored by Nick Dametto MP, from Katter’s Australian Party. At present deer in Queensland are classed as feral pests under the Biosecurity Act, 2014, and councils who are responsible for pest management, are only allowed to consider the negative environmental impacts of deer when making management decisions. Please see the petition here.
The pest status of the deer is resulting in the unnecessary, expensive, and wasteful destruction of Queensland’s wild deer herds, mainly by helicopter shooting, which is at odds with the historical and cultural significance of deer to Queensland. Red Deer first arrived in the Brisbane Valley as a gift from Queen Victoria in 1873 and shares the Queensland coat of arms with the Brolga, the Australian native crane. This makes Queensland Red Deer an older Aussie icon than “Waltzing Matilda”, so it is the duty of Queensland hunters to maintain deer in an environmentally responsible manner, which also mitigates impacts on agriculture.
The same applies for other historical deer herds, the Fallow Deer around Stanthorpe, Chital in Charters Towers and Rusa on the Torres Strait islands. These deer have been in these locations long enough that the local environment has adapted to them, so to consider them out of place just because they were introduced, makes no sense. At the same time deer have spread widely in Queensland since the introduction of the historic herds, so where they have entered locations where the cost to agriculture is too high or where there are unacceptable environmental impacts, they need to be managed more aggressively.
The petition proposes to allowing councils to tailor their responses to their local circumstances, by allowing them to consider the benefits of deer as a sustainable resource, rather than just the negative impacts as is currently the case. The benefits and impacts of deer, together with a variety of mitigations, would be able to be weighed up by councils in consultation with the local community including hunters, farmers, deer-related small-business and environmental groups. to negotiate deer management arrangements that best suit their locality.
I believe local government management is especially suitable in Queensland, not only because it would capitalise on existing biosecurity arrangements, but also because Queensland is a huge, geographically diverse state with four different deer species. What works in the Brisbane and Mary Valleys isn’t going to work in Charters Towers, so if they meet any environmental protection requirements such as the protection of environmentally sensitive areas, the best people to decide if and how deer would be managed sustainably, are the locals who would be affected by the decision.
This petition comes at a critical time for Queensland deer hunters, as the Queensland Feral Deer Management Strategy, 2013-2018, has long expired and never been renewed.
The Strategy, to which several hunting organisations contributed, provided some acknowledgement of the sustainable use benefits of wild deer, even if they were still labeled as feral pests. With the strategy gone there is no Queensland government policy acknowledging the benefits of deer. Furthermore, before the 2020 state election the Queensland Labor Government promised the Invasive Species Council, which aggressively lobbies for deer to be treated as a pest, that the strategy will be renewed in 2021.
With the Liberal National Party also promising to include the Invasive Species Council in any negotiations at the election, while making no promises to hunters of any nature despite these being sought, the need for deer hunters to fight effectively to turn the political tide has never been more urgent.
As a start people need to sign and share this petition. My friend Daniel Boniface started a petition to allow public land access for hunters in Queensland in 2018, which raised 13,576 signatures, the second largest petition that year. We supported the petition with the State Forest Hunting for Queensland campaign.
While that petition was refused by the Queensland Government, it was critical in raising the profile of the issue in the Queensland hunting community and with friendly non-government politicians, like those in Katter’s Australian Party. If we want sustainable deer management in Queensland, we need to show the political parties that we are dead keen on it and a petition is a proven way to do that.
Don’t just share the petition with hunters either, many people are inherently averse to unnecessarily killing and wasting an animal. We need to make the argument in the broader community about why sustainable use is ethical and ask people to sign the petition.
It is also critical that the Queensland hunting organisations with an interest in deer, work in cooperation with the broader hunting and outdoor recreation communities, as well as with the primary industries such as timber and grazing. Deer hunting is a relatively niche pastime in Queensland, most Queensland hunters just want to get onto public land to hunt pigs and other species. Therefore, to benefit from the support of the broader Queensland hunting community, deer hunters need to fight alongside them to achieve all our goals.
Queensland hunters also need to broaden the fight to align with all forest users against the Queensland Government’s green ideology inspired promise to lock up 17% of Queensland into national parks. The Government is at just over 8% now and Queensland’s foreign funded environmental lobby has our three million hectares of state forest firmly in its sights. This is an extremely pressing priority because no state forests would mean no state forest hunting, and no state forest hunting will keep the Queensland hunting lobby weak, making it far harder if not impossible to protect our historic deer herds from decimation.
Finally. Queensland hunters need a friendly political party to hold the balance of power in the Queensland Parliament, to play the same role that the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party does in other states. This is harder to achieve for a minority group like Queensland hunters than in other states since we have a single house of parliament and no proportional representation.
However, it is far from impossible if we align with like-minded interest groups and focus our resources on localities where hunter friendly parties can win seats. Historically Queensland has been governed by many multi-party governments have and when it is achieved the ability of the balance of power party to choose which major party governs, potentially gives it far more power than just being able to pass or block legislation in an upper house.
At the present time Katter’s Australian Party is the only political party in Queensland Parliament which supports state forest hunting. Stephen Andrew, Member for Mirani, has also been very supportive of Queensland hunters, including of our efforts during the state forest hunting petition.
I hope that this petition for sustainable deer management can provide another rallying point for Queensland hunters and our other outdoor working and loving friends, to pull together to turn back the tide of green ideology and advance all our interests.
State Forest Hunting for Queensland
(For disclosure, Rhys is a member of Katter’s Australian Party)