Lismore City Council is calling on the state government to ban access by shooters to national parks in the Lismore area, on the eve of debate on the controversial legislation in parliament tomorrow.
Councillors voted on Tuesday to write to the NSW premier, the environment minister and all state MPs expressing opposition to the Feral Animal Control Act, which if passed, would allow amateur shooters in 79 NSW national parks including Nightcap, Richmond Range and Yabbra.
Councillor David Yarnall succeeded with his urgency motion in the 11th-hour bid to lobby the government on the issue, which was opposed by Battista, Meineke, Marks and Graham.
The letter will identify the risks to the safety of all park users and adjoining land owners, potential negative impacts on protected flora and fauna and cultural heritage, negative impacts on north coast nature-based tourism, inability of National Parks staff to monitor and manage such impacts, lack of public consultation on procedures that would prevent such impacts, and reinforce that feral-animal control needs to be undertaken safely and effectively by professional control programs implemented by NSW conservation agencies.
Cr Yarnall’s property adjoins a national park and he believes he and his family would be in direct harm from shooting activities. There is no buffer zone and, as Cr Clough pointed out, a bullet required to kill a wild pig can travel up to five kilometres.
Cr Clough supported the motion saying that shooting in national parks will change the way the public use such areas.
‘The tourism industry will be directly affected. Visitors won’t go to Minyon Falls if shooters are present. I see this as a policy disaster. This is not about ruining reputations of hunters.’
Cr Ekins, who was in favour of the letter, knows how to use a gun and her own sons are in the process of obtaining licences. She believes there ‘cannot be shared use in national parks and that the reason there hasn’t been more success in other control of feral animals is because of inadequate funding.’
Cr Ekins also mentioned that in some countries ‘the whole park is closed for hunting season so there is no risk to shared users’.
Cr Graham rejected the letter, saying it was an ‘overreaction and that if it gets passed, the council should be very cautious in their wording as the farming sector need a helping hand with feral animal control’.
Cr Graham has personally used baits and believes they don’t work, and stressed the devastating impacts of wild animals on the agricultural industry.
Cr Battista read from a government report that estimates the cost of feral animals (such as pigs, rabbits, foxes, cats etc) to the Australian environment and economy to be in the vicinity of $1 billion per year. He questioned why Cr Clough would oppose measures to eradicate this issue ‘when he campaigns for koalas, [which] are threatened by feral animals’.
Cr Marks confessed to the chambers he has only recently come to terms with his own fear of guns, having witnessed a murder at the age of 18. However, he opposed the letter, stating ‘there were high restrictions on shooters’ who would hunt in national parks, and that they were of ‘high calibre’. The pun was acknowledged.
Cr Smith was enthusiastic in his support of the letter and responded to Cr Marks, saying it was not good enough that ‘an R Licence (which is what you will need to shoot in national parks) can be obtained by mere paperwork and for around $60 per year. This Bill is for recreational shooters,’ he said.
Cr Smith had recently taken his family to Protesters Falls and believes that if this Bill is passed it would make a trip like that less inviting.