National park rangers on the north coast and around the state will refuse to co-operate with any moves to introduce recreational hunting in the state’s national parks as a protest against the government’s controversial move last week.
The rangers say hunting in national parks is likely to jeopardise public safety and drive out other users.
Last Friday the union representing National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) rangers announced it had directed its members ‘not to assist with any activity involved with establishing recreational hunting in national parks in NSW’, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald.
General secretary of the Public Service Association of NSW, John Cahill, said the industrial action was due to the union’s belief that the government’s decision ‘poses a serious risk to the safety of park rangers, visitors, wildlife and the environmen’.
Today, park rangers are set to rally outside a community cabinet meeting due to be held in Bathurst.
A Tweed-based ranger this week wrote to the premier saying his announcement to open up the parks to shooters showed his ‘contempt’ for the NPWS and conservation generally and ‘displays an ignorance of strategic pest control programs’.
Allan Goodwin, writing in his capacity as a local resident of the Tweed Valley, said the decision ‘ignores sound pest animal control strategy, safety of park visitors, animal welfare, safe work practices and a wide range of environmental impacts that no doubt NPWS rangers will be asked to manage, assess or ignore’.
Mr Goodwin said it was ‘an attack on the concept that national parks are a refuge for native animals, for threatened species, for vegetation communities including endangered ecological communities as well as sanctuaries for people to escape into wilderness and peace’.
The Herald report also says experts in the environment department warned in 2008 against allowing hunting in national parks when the then Labor government was being lobbied by the Shooters Party.
The manager of of the department’s pest management unit, Andrew Leys, then warned there would be ‘serious public safety implications if recreational hunting was allowed in national parks’.
Mr Leys also warned of the need to close parks for public safety reasons whenever hunters were present and that the move would change the public’s perception of national parks which would lead to a decline in visitor numbers.
”Recreational hunting in national parks is strongly opposed by other recreational users and would be likely to lead to a decline in the use of the parks by these groups,’ he said.
But Mr O’Farrell says volunteer shooters would be strictly monitored and the environment minister would stipulate the time, type of pest, hours of entry and ‘all those things to ensure not only is public safety protected but there is proper regulation’.’