In further evidence that Victoria is one of the most enlightened of Australia’s states and territories when it comes to protecting the rights of its hunters, those who want to disrupt duck shooting now face huge fines.
An amendment to the Wildlife Act introduced by the Victorian Government will see fines for protesters who are caught in areas designated for duck hunting go up from $1400 to more than $8500.
Those who then want to have a crack at a hunter who is lawfully taking part in the 12-week duck season will face fines of up to $3000.
This is on top of 25m exclusion zones around water bodies where duck hunters are shooting introduced previously.
One Victorian duck hunter said that while he welcomed the fine increase, he wondered if the protesters would pay.
“I’d like to see a few put away for a while or maybe get community service,” said Leon Wright who has been hunting for 57 years. “I don’t think they’d pay the fine, no matter what it was.
“But they’re a danger to themselves and other people on the swamp.”
The penalties come in a crackdown on harassment of lawful activity sanctioned by the Department of Primary Industries with a penalty increase for logging protesters as well.
In February this year two duck hunting protesters were convicted of more than 40 offences in relation to incidents from the opening week of the 2010 duck hunting season at Dowds Morass State Game Reserve near Sale.
The 33 year old female from Burwood was fined $2,100 and the 32 year old male from Watsonia was fined $1,600 in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on the 29th of January 2013. Each was also ordered to pay $7574 in costs to the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE).
The charges, filed by the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE), arose out of a series of incidents involving interactions between the accused and three groups of hunters. They included continuously hindering and harassing hunters, and being on the wetland at restricted times.
Victoria Police also issued charges against the two, concerning use of offensive language and theft of signs on public land concerning the same three groups of hunters.
The hearing was held over 16 days because of a large number of witnesses.
In passing his judgement, the Magistrate said: their actions were illegal, in major respects they knew it to be so, and in all respects they should have been aware they were at risk of acting contrary to the law.
The responsibility for managing Victoria’s games species, including the management of duck hunting was transferred over to the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) in 2012.
The Director of Game Victoria at DPI, Simon Toop, welcomed the court findings.
He said new regulations which came into force late last year aim to create a safer situation on wetlands during the duck hunting season.
“Hunters should be allowed to go about their lawful activity without being hindered, harassed, abused and having their property stolen” Mr Toop said.
“The new regulations strengthen the previous laws and protestors should abide by them to ensure everyone’s safety.”