The North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) and the state Greens have slammed the coalition government’s ‘outrageous payoff’ to the controversial Game Council of NSW in this week’s budget.
With Nightcap, Richmond Range and Yabbra National Parks in the shooters’ sights, and over 100 other reserves in the northern rivers potentially available, NEFA spokesman Dailan Pugh says funding instead should be going to the National Parks and Wildlife Service to ensure public safety from hunters.
The Game Council did a deal with the coalition in order for the government to introduce hunting in national parks, which has outraged rural communities across the state.
But premier Barry O’Farrell has put the move on hold till he considers a review on the council, which was finalised yesterday.
Mr Pugh told Echonetdaily that the Game Council ‘has proven that they are not an independent regulator as they facilitate hunting’.
‘They have shown time and again that they can not be trusted to oversee the hunters,’ he said.
‘It is outrageous that premier O’Farrell is refusing to release the review into the Game Council while at the same time increasing their public funding to $4.35 million a year.
‘This funding should be going to the National Parks and Wildlife Service to appropriately constrain the hunters and ensure public safety.’
The latest controversy on funding comes as another rural mayor expresses concern over hunting in parks and forests.
Oberon mayor John McMahon fears hunters in state forests may accidentally shoot mushroom pickers who flock to the region annually.
Mr McMahon told ABC radio that he had requested a meeting with the Game Council to ask for hunters to be excluded from mushroom forests.
He says mushroom picking is the region’s biggest tourism draw and the two activities don’t mix as pickers, who do not wear fluoro vests, could be accidentally shot.
Greens MP David Shoebridge said the increase in funding to the Game Council was a reward for the Shooters Party support in the NSW Upper House.
Mr Shoebridge said that ‘in a tight state budget that is seeing services and jobs squeezed, the pro-hunting Game Council has been given more than a 60 per cent increase in the budget’.
‘This massive budget increase is an apparent reward for the Shooters Party for their ongoing support for the O’Farrell government’s attacks on working people in NSW,’ he said.
‘The $1.7 million increase in public funding for the Game Council is a 63.5 per cent increase from last year’s funding, and means the pro-gun body is receiving more than twice its average funding over the last decade.
‘Since its inception, the Game Council has attracted an average of $2.1 million a year, but in 2014 it is swelling to $4.35 million. This is outrageous considering the organisation was supposed to be self-funding.
‘The Game Council was set up by the Labor Party in 2002 to secure the support of the Shooters Party. Both current Shooters Party MPs are former chairmen of the Game Council.
‘Evidence of incompetence and negligence has dogged the Game Council from the very beginning. Its governance and structure are currently under review.
‘The Shooters Party is well-known for supporting anything the government of the day puts forward, as long as they get what they want, weaker gun controls and more hunting on public land.
‘The NSW government needs to end its addiction to the gun lobby, not increase the funding of the failing Game Council,’ Mr Shoebridge said.