Friday, 1 June 2012

Shooting in National Parks and privatised electricity - can you spot the link?

Just when New South Wales (NSW) politics seemed to be at its oddest - things have become even more strange.

In early May there was a flurry of media reports on proposed changes to hunting laws in NSW. Under proposed new regulations children as young as 12 will be permitted to hunt. The move has the backing of the Game Council of NSW and is strongly opposed by the Greens.  

But it doesn't end there. In the past week it has emerged that Barry O'Farrell, Premier of NSW, has done a deal with the Shooters and Fishers Party. The deal means that the O'Farrell Government will be able to sell NSW's electricity infrastructure. In return for supporting that legislation, the Shooters and Fishers Party will secure access to 79 of NSW's 799 National Parks for recreational hunters.    

The agreement is highly controversial. NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service rangers are strongly opposed and have begun to organise around the issue. Rangers are threatening industrial action and the National Parks Association of NSW is also 'horrified'. The Invasive Species Council also opposes the move, arguing that hunters will increase the number of pest species in Parks:

Dr Carol Booth from the Invasive Species Council of Australia says, there is evidence recreational hunters seed public lands with feral animals, and hunting in National Parks could undermine feral animal control programs.

"They may catch the odd pig, but the dogs scatter the rest, making overall control more difficult.

The hunters also smash gates, cut fences, damage signs, dump rubbish, and regularly abandon or lose hunting dogs, that turn on the native animals, so park rangers certainly have major concerns about pig hunting in National Parks." 

But the story does not end there. Based on comments made by Shooters MP Robert Borsak, but unconfirmed by O'Farrell, it seems that the hands of time might be wound back in NSW, with duck hunting once again legalised. According to Borsak it will not be a 'traditional open and shut duck season' but rather a 'new model for sustainable, progressive utilisation based on species, populations, periodic need for mitigation and so on'.

So all eyes turn to NSW as we wait to see what the Shooters are able to secure next. 

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