The NSW government is giving away no clues about what will happen when volunteer hunters join NPWS staff to begin trials of culls in national parks in October.
Office of Environment and Heritage staff can only confirm that the policy for the supplementary pest management program is in a state of flux and nothing has been finalised.
Hunters are waiting to find out how to register their interest, what it will take to be part of the program, the costs involved, the levels of supervision required and the number and size of culling operations.
The current NPWS accreditation system involves a course similar to the Certification III in Vertebrate Pest Management (Cert III VPM) but with an additional unit covering NPWS procedures, policies and reporting.
Gary Bryant, general manager of the Firearms Safety & Training Council which runs NPWS courses, said the cost of the 1-2 days course was $418.
Mr Bryant believes that a Cert III VPM would not be counted a prior learning by the NPWS for the purposes of passing their course, and so advised against anyone trying to get in early by doing the VPM course.
Mr Bryant appeared to be rather off-put by the prospect of scores of hunters flooding in to do courses before October, raising questions about whether there would be enough resources available in the training industry to handle the number of hunters required by the NPWS to make the trial a success.
Some hunters are contacting the OEH directly to register their interest but there is no indication of who is receiving the emails and whether they are being stored.
The anti-hunting National Parks Association has claimed that the hunters who will take part in the trials have already been selected, but this is considered to be disinformation, given the current progress of the OEH’s policy development and the fact that none of these hunters have come forward to contribute to the debate.
There’s conflict in the hunting community over whether to boycott the NPWS trials, which many believe are being set up to fail by a government that wants the hunting issue to go away, NPWs staff who have opposed hunting in national parks and professional shooters who have a vested interest in keeping it a closed shop.
Others are keen to get involved from the beginning to do their best to ensure the trials succeed and volunteer hunters create a place for themselves in pest management.
There is no doubt, however, that the model being put forward is not what the Shooters and Fishers Party had in mind when it put forward legislation to allow hunting in NSW national parks.
“This supplementary pest control is something that cannot and will not substitute for the general hunting model,” S&F MLC Robert Borsak said.
“It isn’t acceptable to hunters. It was only ever going to be a helping hand done on a small scale.”
Leigh Nunn is a qualified range officer, a member of the Queensland Military Rifle Club, and intends to sit for a Cert III in Vertebrate Pest Management. He has taken an active role in political issues affecting shooters, including fighting recent changes to Queensland firearm legislation and knife laws.