Hunting in National Parks
The following adjournment speech was made by Robert Borsak MLC in the NSW Legislative Council yesterday:
I inform the House that for the first time an economic value can be put on the work of volunteer conservation hunters, who remove game and feral animals from our State forests. Over many years governments have declined to provide such figures, but I am pleased to say the O'Farrell Government has been prepared to look at the issue and do the calculations. Volunteer hunters have been working in our State forests for a number of years—without any serious incident or accidents—and have shot thousands of feral animals, providing an enormous boost to conservation efforts in relation to native wildlife.
In answer to a question recently asked in this place, I am pleased to say the information was valuable and welcome. It also bodes well for the extension of conservation hunting into national parks. I wish we did have 751 National Parks, as referred to by Hon. Walt Secord earlier. It is a fact that 457 wild dogs have been shot in State forests by Game Council conservation hunters between March 2006 and September this year. I mention this in passing because wild dogs have become a serious threat to livestock and, indeed, farming livelihoods across the State. But it is not just wild dogs that are being shot.
Forests NSW has conceded that if commercial rates had to be applied to the removal of the 18,485 feral and game animals from its estate, as has been done by Game Council conservation hunters last year alone, the cost would have amounted to a total of $2.4 million. This is an illuminating figure. It means that Game Council hunters have saved the Government at least that amount of money. This figure does not include any add-on benefits for the rural and regional economies, whereby hunters buy their food, fuel and other supplies for their hunts.
By contrast, we know that the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service rangers have a budget of about $30 million a year for the removal of feral animals and weeds, and for bushfire mitigation work. Even if only a third of that goes towards removing feral animals, it gives them a $10 million budget. Until recently the National Parks and Wildlife Service could not, or would not, say how many animals it was removing each year. The Shooters and Fishers Party has been putting pressure on it to reveal the statistics, and it has finally got some information.
Suddenly, and out of thin air, the National Parks and Wildlife Service has come up with a figure of something like 26,000 feral animals being removed each year—from its seven million hectares of national parks. I do not like to be a doubting Thomas, but I think the 26,000 figure is probably a bit like the 38 million figure that the service trots out as being the number of tourists and visitors who use our national parks each year. There can be no doubt that the sooner we can get conservation hunters into the national parks the better off our native animals will be. They have proved that they can do the job efficiently and effectively.
The general public need have no concerns. There has been no impact on public use of State forests since the inception of the feral animal shooting program. I think the criticism of the scheme by The Greens is disingenuous. They say they want feral animals out of our national parks, but they want professionals to do it—or else use poison. They insult Game Council licence holders by trying to belittle them and claim they will not be professional. These guys will be amongst the best marksmen out there. They are doing the job as professionally as the rangers do, and do not have the benefit of helicopter gunships and automatic weapons.
In respect of poisoning, The Greens do not understand how 1080 works. If they had seen an animal dying from this poison, they would not be backing its use. Having helped set up the Game Council, I take some pride in how it has developed and how it has conducted the feral animal control operation in State forests. It is of major benefit to the State, and its staff should be congratulated—not vilified as The Greens seem to prefer. Let me repeat: The sooner we get Game Council volunteer conservation hunters into our national parks to shoot feral animals the better off our native animals will be.
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