It is officially open season in three of the region’s national parks following the passing of new legislation in state parliament yesterday.
The new law is part of a deal with the Shooters and Fishers Party that has enabled the government to pass legislation to sell off the state’s electricity generators. Indeed, the premier himself didn’t bother to hide it, admitting that the government only passed the electricity privatisation bill with the Shooters’ support.
Hunting for feral pigs, dogs, goats and cats will be permitted under licence in about 10 per cent of the state’s 799 national parks, including Nightcap, Yabbra and Richmond Range on the northern rivers.
It is being heralded by the government as a win for the environment.
But a coalition of five environment groups has described the move as ‘a fundamental breach of trust by Barry O’Farrell with the electorate’.
A joint media release issued late yesterday read, ‘The premier has repeatedly assured the public that he would not allow hunting in national parks. Today, he broke that promise. Yesterday, his government announced a proposal to weaken our state’s land-clearing laws. What will tomorrow hold?’
The groups represented were Total Environment Centre, Nature Conservation Council of NSW, The Wilderness Society, Colong Foundation for Wilderness, and Humane Society International.
The NSW Greens described the move as ‘a blatant deal with the Shooters Party… to massively expand the amount of public land available to amateur recreational hunting in a move that sees NSW adopting an unwanted pro-gun culture’.
Premier Barry O’Farrell claimed strict controls would apply to the licences, requiring written permission from the Game Council, which will oversee the program.
He added: ‘the minister for the environment would have ultimate control over where, when and how volunteer pest shooting took place’.
The premier described the move as ‘a logical extension of existing policy’. This year some 24,000 feral animals were removed from the state’s national parks by professional culling.
But the Greens have consistently criticised the move, previously arguing that children as young as 12 could theoretically be licensed to stab pigs.
Yesterday NSW Greens firearms spokesperson David Shoebridge described the move as ‘a shameless capitulation to the Shooters Party and the pro-gun and hunting lobby in NSW, which the majority of NSW residents will be sickened by’.
‘Feral animal control should be done professionally and humanely, not by a bunch of amateurs who have a vested interest in maintaining feral animal numbers to fuel their blood sports.
‘Amateur hunting has been a failed experiment in our state forests with the numbers of wild dogs rising and continued reports of shooters actively seeding public land with feral animals for next year’s hunt.’
Greens environment spokesperson Cate Faehrmann said, ‘This is about recreational hunting and dirty deals, not genuine feral animal control. This dirty deal is disgraceful and is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to attacks on National Parks expected to come from the Shooters–O’Farrell alliance.’
The premier said protections for native animals will remain in force, with fines of up to $220,000 for harming a threatened species.