Forest-protection campaigners have slammed north coast MPs for failing to propose any local national parks or reserves for exclusion from any future trial which could potentially make them available for recreational hunting.
Last week, the government announced a three-year trial for amateur hunting in 12 mostly western NSW national parks.
The announcement was a watered-down version of the government’s original proposal, struck after a deal with the Fishers and Shooters Party, which fell into disarray after key members of the Game Council that was to oversee the issuing of licences were charged with illegal hunting.
The Game Council was subsequently stripped of its powers and the parks being used as part of the new trial are near Griffith, Cobar, Balranald, Dubbo, Bourke and Albury.
Parks on the original list included Goonengerry National Park and Nightcap National Park in the northern rivers.
The issue has sparked a war of words between Ballina MP Don Page and North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) spokesperson Dailan Pugh.
In a media release timed to coincide with the announcement, Mr Page accused the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) of ‘running a scare campaign for over a year claiming that shooters would be allowed into national parks in the Ballina Electorate’.
‘This was never going to be the case but they refused to listen. Now it has been confirmed with the announcement of the trial locations,’ Mr Page said.
But NEFA’s Dailan Pugh hit back, saying that north coast National Party MPs failed to move amendments to exclude recreational hunting from national parks when given the opportunity to do so with the passage of the Game and Feral Animal Control Amendment Bill 2013 last month.
As such, Mr Pugh says, ‘the failure of north coast MPs to put forward any national parks or reserves for exclusion has left them all potentially available for recreational hunting according to political whims.’
‘Regrettably Don Page, Thomas George, Geoff Provest, and Christopher Gulaptis again refused to take this latest opportunity to exclude recreational hunting from any of the 107 far north coast reserves where it is currently allowed at the discretion of the Environment Minister,’ he said.
‘It is outrageous that Don Page is now accusing NEFA of running a misinformation and scare campaign because we have opposed recreational hunting in national parks and repeatedly called on him to specifically exclude reserves in his electorate.
‘The Shooters and Fishers Party have made it clear that they want all 750 reserves in NSW where hunting is potentially allowed made available for unsupervised recreational hunting. The next time the government wants their votes it will all be on again because Don Page refused to stand up for our parks.
‘It is worrying that Don Page’s attacks on NEFA display either a profound lack of understanding of the legislation he voted for, or an intent to mislead his electorate on this issue’, Mr Pugh said.
Mr Page said ‘all of the parks, reserves and conservation areas included in the trial already have existing programs to reduce pest animals’.
‘The North East Forest Alliance should be supporting this program to protect our native flora and fauna instead of deliberately spreading misinformation for political gain,’ he said.
The trial, he said, would ‘utilise the expertise, skill and commitment of volunteers who have an equivalent skill and accreditation level to professional staff, under the supervision of the NPWS.
‘All relevant areas within parks will be closed to other users on the specific days that planned shooting operations are underway. No person under 18 will be allowed to participate in the program and only firearm types that are currently used in NPWS operations will be permitted,’ Mr Page dded.