The Shooters and Fishers Party have further outraged opponents of their ‘dirty deal’ with the government, which allows hunting in national parks, by proposing to outlaw anti-hunting protests as well.
The move this week by the shooters to outlaw what many see as their democratic right to protest prompted the NSW Greens to refer the controversial deal to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
The deal last month paved the way for more than 770 national parks and reserves to be opened up for hunters for what they claim is feral animal control, has sparked an outcry from communities across the state.
This week, Lismore and Coffs Harbour city councils voted to oppose hunting and will let the government know of their stand, while other councils surrounded by or reliant on tourism from national parks are set to follow their lead.
The two north coast councils benefit from increasing tourism to the many national parks in their area, which attract thousands of international and national visitors each year, and fears hunting in national parks would deter many visitors.
Three popular national parks in the region – Nightcap, Richmond Ranges and Yabbra – are included in the ‘hit list’ of parks to be opened up for shooters.
Greens MLC Cate Faehrmann said this week that ‘the deal is in between the O’Farrell government and the radical Shooters Party after the Shooters presented their legislative amendments to parliament allowing amateur hunting in national parks and moving for the first time to outlaw anti-hunting protests’.
‘The bill tabled today only excludes 28 of our national parks and other types of reserves. This will leave 771 open to recreational hunters… It’s disgraceful that Barry O’Farrell has sold off public safety, the environment, animal welfare and native wildlife to the extreme demands of the Shooters Party,’ Ms Faehrmann said.
‘When is the truth about this shambolic deal going to come out? This Bill is contrary to the promise from last week that only 79 parks and reserves would be open.
‘National parks are iconic and hold a special place for most Australians. It is just astounding that Mr O’Farrell thinks he can sell them out for a dirty political deal with the Shooters Party.
‘What makes this deal even worse is that recreational ground shooting is recognised by feral-species experts as completely ineffective at eradicating species.’
Greens MLC David Shoebridge said the proposed law ‘shamefully protects hunters while it criminalises protesters’.
‘It is hard to imagine a more aggressive attack on both our environment and our right to protest.’
Mr Shoebridge said the NSW Greens referred ‘the entire political deal, where the Shooters get access to National Parks in return for the unprincipled sell-off of the electricity generators to ICAC’.
‘The conduct of the premier has smeared politics in this state and is arguably corruption, with the deal impeding the ability of the Shooters MPs to assess the privatisation legislation on its merits.
‘The deal also means that many coalition MPs will be bound to vote for shooting in national parks, not because it is right, but in order to firm up the privatisation deal with the Shooters,’ he said.
Coffs Harbour City Council this week voted unanimously to oppose private shooting in the parks and will let the premier and environment minister know, soon after Lismore council also resolved to oppose hunting in parks in its local government area.
Coffs Harbour Cr Mark Graham, who was behind the move, said it was about representing ‘the interests of the many people who currently use our national parks safely without the risk of being shot’.
‘There is no evidence that ground-based private shooting is effective in controlling feral animals. There is lots of evidence that shooting is dangerous and numerous fatalities have occurred in recent decades,’ Cr Graham said.
‘Opposition is mounting across the state and rangers are refusing to work on this dangerous proposal. Seventy-four thousand people in the Coffs Harbour local government area have joined the chorus. Barry O’Farrell must respond to this opposition and refuse to allow private shooting in national parks. The blood will be on his hands if he doesn’t.
‘Our tourism industry is heavily reliant upon recreational visits to our national parks and other conservation reserves. We can’t afford to have our tourists chased away by gun-toting users of conservation reserves.
‘There are around 35 million peaceful recreational visits annually to our conservation reserves; there are approximately twenty thousand members of the Game Council. The numbers simply don’t add up.’