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Government abolishes Game Council NSW

by SSAA NSW Executive Director Diana Melham

SSAA members from around Australia, but particularly those in New South Wales, were recently left feeling betrayed by NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell and his Liberal/National Government. In a clear attack on the rights of law-abiding, responsible and ethical hunters, Premier O’Farrell announced that he would disband Game Council NSW and suspend all hunting on public lands.

Hunters who have invested considerable time and resources into controlling feral pest populations in our state forests, at no cost to the government, are no doubt left wondering ‘where to from here?’

What led to this?
In 2012, Premier O’Farrell commissioned a report into the Game Council that would address a number of areas. And it’s true: the report did find some areas relating to governance and administrative functions that needed to be improved on. But the Dunn Report also found a hardworking and dedicated staff at the Game Council who had recorded “significant achievements” managing more than 20,000 conservation hunters.

Dunn found that the Game Council had made good steps to “the idea of responsible and orderly hunting of game and pest animals”, describing it as a “worthy goal”. Dunn also noted some of the difficulties the organisation faced, including the “conflicting challenges for scarce funding”.

Since the report was released and Premier O’Farrell announced an immediate suspension to hunting on public lands, there has been considerable frustration and uncertainty expressed by hunters.

What we do know?
While there is very little information at this stage, we do know that all hunting on public lands in New South Wales has been immediately suspended, pending a risk assessment. What form this takes is at this stage unknown. However, as soon as more information is available, it will be posted on the SSAA NSW website. The NSW Government has also announced that a trial of hunting in 12 national parks will commence in October 2013.

Many Game Council NSW Restricted Game Hunting Licence (R-Licence) holders have contacted SSAA NSW in the days following the announcement to ask what will happen to their applications and licences now that the Game Council has been disbanded. I can advise that members with an R-Licence processed after June 4, 2013, will be eligible for a full refund and should visit www.gamecouncil.nsw.gov.au to obtain the ‘refund request form’. For those members whose R-Licence was processed prior to June 4, 2013, the following information applies:

  • If access to state forests or crown lands is permitted in the next six months, your NSW R-Licence will be extended for the equivalent time of the suspension.
  • If access to state forests or crown lands is not permitted in the next six months, you will be entitled to a pro-rata refund for the time you have been unable to use your licence.

What is SSAA NSW doing?
Since learning of the NSW Premier’s decision, SSAA NSW has spoken on several occasions with our friends at the Shooters and Fishers Party, who are planning a well organised and resourced campaign against these attacks on licensed hunters. SSAA NSW, along with other hunting organisations, will join together to fight these changes. And even though the campaign is just starting, there is no shortage of hunters willing to put up their hand and telling me we can count on their support. The NSW Government’s announcement took everyone by surprise, but members can be assured that plans are in place to stand behind our hunters and combat these attacks.

What can members do today?
The most important thing our members can do is let their own local MP know that they are not happy with the NSW Premier’s attack on licensed, law-abiding hunters. Phone or write to your local MP asking for a meeting to discuss your concerns. You can use the SSAA NSW Action Centre to find the contact details for your local MP, as well as the number of firearms licences and SSAA memberships in your electorate. You will also find important information that can be included to highlight the enormous value of conservation hunting in New South Wales.

Premier O’Farrell, this is your wake-up call!
Rather than this being the end of access to public lands in New South Wales, this should be a wake-up call to the NSW Government to appropriately fund and manage hunting in the state. SSAA NSW will be a part of the Shooters and Fishers Party campaign, along with other hunting organisations, to ensure this government recognises the valuable role of hunters in protecting our public land from feral pests.

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