State and federal Labor MPs chose Cudgen Nature Reserve on the Tweed Coast yesterday as the place to announce their campaign against hunting in national parks, which they expect to begin on the north coast by Christmas.
The controversial move to open up national parks to shooters for so-called feral animal control was approved by the coalition government recently in what has been described as a ‘dirty deal’ with the Shooters and Fishers Party for their support for electricity privatisation.
On the north coast, hunting will be allowed in the Richmond Range National Park west of Kyogle, the World Heritage-listed Nightcap National Park east of Nimbin, Yabbra National Park and World Heritage-listed Dorrigo National Park.
Hunting will be allowed in nearly 800 parks and reserves across the state, according to the MPs.
MLC Walt Secord said hunting was expected to begin in many of those parks before Christmas, ‘a time when families flood into national parks’ and likely to increase public risk.
NSW Labor environment spokesperson, Luke Foley, Mr Secord, Richmond MP Justine Elliot, and Tweed Labor council candidates Michael Armstrong and Reece Byrnes are calling on the state government to guarantee major reserves in the area would not be added to the list.
They made the announcement at the Cudgen Nature Reserve, a 464-hectare reserve known for its sea turtles, a struggling koala colony and good accessibility for families.
It also adjoins the controversial Kings Forest development for around 5,000 homes.
The state environment department is still investigating the bulldozing of trees and other vegetation over a year ago along a 300-metre stretch of creek inside the protected nature reserve.
Authorities implicated the developer, Leda Developments, but the company claimed it was an accident.
Mr Foley said opening up national parks to armed hunters will threaten the safety of bush walkers, campers and other park users.
‘Before the election, premier Barry O’Farrell promised not to turn our national parks into hunting reserves, but that is exactly what is happening under his government,’ he said.
‘The state’s most pristine national parks were being sacrificed for the sake of a political deal by Barry O’Farrell to sell the state’s electricity industry.
‘At the stroke of the minister’s pen, any park on the north coast could be added to the list of national parks open to the shooters.’
Mrs Elliot said there was widespread community opposition to the hunting in national parks and she was concerned about the safety of people bushwalking.
‘Tragically, we can look to New Zealand for alarming consequences of these laws. In the past two years, there have been two accidental shooting deaths in New Zealand parks, including a 25-year-old woman. She was mistakenly identified as a deer,’ said Mrs Elliot.
Mr Secord said the 79 parks comprise almost 40 per cent of all the state’s parks and reserves and amount to close to three million hectares.
‘To put it into perspective, the O’Farrell Government is going to allow hunting by recreational shooters in an area the size of the European nation of Belgium,’ he said.