Dear Barry O’Farrell, Please Keep Guns Out Of Our National Parks

* A quick note: Unfortunately, as a result of some inappropriate messages I have had to moderate and close the comments section for this post. Thankfully most of the commenters here – bushwalkers, hunters and other citizens – have been respectful. There is a lot of disagreement, but the fact is that most Australians are comfortable with what people choose to do on private land (and it is downright necessary for a lot of folks on rural properties to protect themselves and their livestock from feral animals) and many people are also comfortable with the controlled, licensed hunting taking place in our state forests. However, the new legislation that opens up 79 National Parks in NSW to hunting is a bridge too far, particularly as the only government risk assessment released to the public labels the scheme as ‘high risk’ for injury or death to park users and staff. In my view this situation does not give park users a fair chance to feel safe. I know and have worked with many responsible licensed firearms users, (and I have over ten years experience with firearms myself) and many of them have expressed their discomfort with this situation as it stands. These facts – and the fact that I use national parks regularly with my young daughter and we live on a bush property on the border of a national park – are why I chose to publicly post my letter to the Premier of NSW opposing the legislation which came into effect on Dec 27, 2012, with shooting to begin in March. My letter to the premier’s office has to date been unanswered. *

Dear Hon. Barry O’Farrell, Premier of NSW,

As a mother who bushwalks regularly with a small child I request that you take immediate action to stop recreational shooting in our national parks. The risk of injury or death to park users like myself and my daughter is simply too high. Like many citizens, I am not comfortable walking through bush alongside armed hunters, and NSW – which has some of the most beautiful national parks in the world – will suffer from reduced tourism as a result of this legislation.

I am only one of many citizens concerned by the outcome of the deal between the NSW Coalition Government and the Shooters and Fishers Party – something you promised only last year would never happen: ‘There will not be a decision made to turn your national parks into hunting reserves. – Premier Barry O’Farrell, April 2011.

I note with disappointment that this decision has gone unchallenged by every member of the Liberal and National Party despite the fact that your own risk assessments have shown the risk of injury or death to park users and park staff from arrows or bullets is ‘high’, and that according to the assessment from the Office of Environment and Heritage, amateur hunting may actually increase feral animal populations by providing supplementary food sources to local predators.

The primary objective of any feral animal control program should be the reduction of feral animal populations using the most efficient, humane methods available. Reducing feral animals in our parks is important, but must be carried out by professionals in a systematic and evidence based way. Recreational hunters – some as young as 12 – pose a safety risk to visitors, campers, bushwalkers, native animals and park rangers and staff, 96.2% of whom oppose this legislation. In my view, the hunting opportunities already available in around two million hectares of NSW State forest should be enough for responsible recreational hunters, and I note that Game Council NSW employs only 4.2 full time equivalent staff to police the hunting already allowed in State Forests across NSW. The public perception of hunting will not be aided by this unpopular legislation, which is already causing clashes between hunters and other park users.

‘…you can acquire a restricted game licence without ever having fired a firearm. Now, that I think is inadequate…’ – Gary Bryant of the Firearm Safety and Training Council, a former Army infantry officer for 27 years who opposes this scheme.

We recently found spent shotgun shells on a track in the Blue Mountains National Park near our home. By opening up national parks to amateur hunters, you are creating a high risk situation likely to confuse and frighten many park users. Some irresponsible hunters already believe it to be ‘open season’ in all NSW national parks, as evidenced by the horrific shooting and maiming of kangaroos in front of a family of campers in NSW national park in August.

The people of NSW don’t want a situation similar to the tragedy in New Zealand where a 25 year old teacher was mistaken for a deer and shot to death while brushing her teeth at a campsite in 2010, or in Italy, where 13 people were killed this year in the first 7 weeks of the hunting season in 33 different hunting accidents.

‘It’ll come back to haunt all of us. So, if a young child was to be shot with a heavy calibre rifle then probably the first thing they’d be screaming for is cut out heavy calibre rifles. It’s not a nice thing to talk about, but we can’t ignore the possibility.’ – Jim Pirie, gun shop owner, president of his local hunting club in Mudgee and one-time candidate for the Shooters and Fishers Party.

I support NSW park rangers in their protests against this legislation. As PSA General Secretary, John Cahill, said ‘Our park rangers should not have to work in fear for their own safety. [They] have expressed serious concerns about the danger to themselves and the community when shooting is allowed in bushland popular with walkers and picnickers.’

I therefore request that members of the NSW Coalition Government act to repeal the amendments to the Game and Feral Animal Control Act 2002, passed on 27th June 2012, which allow shooting in national parks and other reserves.

I implore you – please keep guns out of our national parks.

Yours sincerely,
Tara Moss

* Links to further information:

Game Council of NSW – will oversee the program. The acting head has just been stood down on suspicion of ‘illegal hunting, trespass and inhumane killing of a feral goat’. 

National Parks Association of NSW – protesting this legislation and may strike

Shooters and Fishers Party – support this legislation and put it forward to NSW government

Public Service Association of NSW – protesting this legislation

Protected Area Workers Association of NSW – protesting this legislation

The Confederation of Bushwalkers – protesting this legislation. Bushwalkers pay higher insurance due to ‘risk of being shot’ 

Invasive Species Council – argue this is not effective policy

RSPCA – protesting this legislation

WIRES – protesting this legislation

Blue Mountains Conservation Society – protesting this legislation

No Hunting in Our National Parks protest website with online letter and Petition.

Information on Restricted (R) Licences for hunting in NSW, (the requirement for hunting in national parks and other public land) available for hunters from age 12:

Information on Minor’s Permits to use firearms in NSW, available for shooters aged 12-18:

Legislation requires that minors must hunt in the presence of an adult and must have the appropriate hunting licence.

UPDATES:

– Bushwalkers pay higher insurance due to ‘risk of being shot’ 

– ‘You can acquire a restricted game licence without ever having fired a firearm in your life. Now, that I think is inadequate’ – GARY BRYANT, FIREARM SAFETY AND TRAINING COUNCIL.

Game boss suspended over illegal hunt claim.

– Shooters MP could lose gun licence after death threat.

– NSW pushes to allow unsupervised minors as young as twelve to hunt on public land.

– NSW park rangers are protesting the introduction of amateur hunting in national parks because of the risk of injury or death for rangers, volunteers and visitors.

– ‘Shooters’ deal secures power sell-off.’ – Financial Review.

– The ABC’s John Doyle and President of the Invasive Species Council Andrew Cox discuss the risk to park visitors and staff, and the difficult issue of feral animals.

56 Comments

  1. Beverley Widdison

    Thank you Tara for saying exactly what I wish to say myself but cant put it into the right words..

  2. Kyle Rankin

    Weapons and national parks are a contradiction. The dangers are so obvious the do not need to be listed. Please stop this nonsense in the name of human decency.

  3. Joanna

    This is appalling and I am dismayed that such stupidity could go ahead. Please repeal this ammendment immediately. I love my local National Park and frequent there often. I cannot believe that I will now have to consider whether I might be walking into the path of an amateur hunter. This is nothing but ridiculous. I am so angry about this.

  4. Kathleen Watkinson

    Thank you for once again expressing so thoughtfully and insightfully what I strive to articulate.

  5. Njptower

    If, sanity forbid, I was a member of the NRA my suggestion would be to arm yourself and your daughter with assault rifles and shoot first because the other guy maybe intending mischief. However, as a believer in a peaceful existence without being fearful of others accidentally killing me and as a person who enjoys the bush, I do not want people firing bullets around the National Parks which are for all.

  6. gemmasparkle

    Good article Tara you speak for many of us.Not only is it extremely dangerous for bushwalkers but also shooting will kill all our beautiful native wildife, koalas, possums & endangered species.POLITICANS ALWAYS SEEM TO RENEGE ON THEIR PROMISES -NOT GOOD! Please rethink your decision Mr O’ Farrell.

  7. Sarah

    Well said, Tara! I think you speak for a large number of people! Something needs to be done!

  8. Chris

    Tara, have you actually looked into the facts on this or are you just going by what a couple of groups who’s failures will be exposed when this program is successful. Do you know what the restrictions on hunters are and which areas will be available to hunting. When Hunting in NSW State Forests was started 7 years ago I heard the same fears as now. Can you tell me of one incident occurring in the last 7 years. Do you know the facts about the teacher shot in NZ. The criminals who did it where breaking every law possible, including spotlighting, shooting off a road and in an area where shooting was not allowed. National Parks are for the conservation of our native species, how can you be be for the protection of feral animals in our parks?

  9. Tara Moss

    Dear Chris,
    Park rangers are protesting this legislation along with every single conservation group. They are not protesting the removal of feral animals, they are protesting hunting in national parks used by unarmed visitors, campers and families. Many experts have also spoken out about the lack of effectiveness of this program for feral animal control. This article above is well sourced. I hope you will click on the links and read about why people are concerned. It does responsible hunters no good to be associated with legislation like this.

    “Can you tell me of one incident occurring in the last 7 years”

    Yes, I can. According to a report commissioned for the Game Council, there were 4 shooting-related deaths in NSW between 2000 and 2010.

    In 2010 a 15 year old boy was shot in the head during a hunting accident in northern NSW: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/boy-shot-in-head-in-hunting-accident-20100426-tly2.html#ixzz2GPuLD6Em

    The risk of serious injury or death to park visitors and staff from accidental shooting is real. Accidental shootings during hunting trips occur elsewhere. There have been 2 fatal accidental shootings in New Zealand in the last 2 years. A number of articles about shooting accidents are listed below:

    http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2012/s3515694.htm
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10682703
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/6742932/Someone-has-to-pay-fo
    http://www.investigatemagazine.com/jul03hunt.htm

    Hunters and unarmed park users should not be using parks at the same time. It is unsafe.

    Best wishes, Tara

    For more information, read the government’s own risk assessment:

    Office of Environment and Heritage
    Draft Risk Assessment – 10 December 2012
    Supplementary Pest Control in Parks Program

    SUMMARY OF KEY FINDINGS
    Pages 13-14:
    This risk assessment has identified the following risks associated with the Supplementary Pest Control In Parks Program.
    1. The risk of a projectile/s causing death or a serious injury to people (bullets & arrows)
    2. Confrontation
    3. Risk to Hunters
    4. The risk of damage to property owned by people in point 1
    5. Environmental Impacts
    6. Cultural Heritage
    7. Impacts on Visitation
    8. Credibility (impacts on the NPWS brand)
    9. Interruption to Park operations (NPWS & utilities etc)
    10. Animal welfare

    Pages 15-16:
    Risk assessment in relation to risk 1 – projectile injury
    (The risk of projectile/s causing death or a serious injury to people).
    It ranked the consequence of this risk as major and the likelihood as possible for some user groups (OEH workers, Visitors and R-licensed hunters), giving a risk rating of High.

    etc. Ask for a copy of the full assessment if all the above is not enough.

  10. DHV

    Lets be honest here for a second or two.
    Shooting already occurs in National Parks. In NSW it’s currently done by both contractors and rangers, and sometimes from helicopters. In Victoria and elsewhere it’s done by volunteer hunters.
    Sending proven volunteers on foot into those same areas, if anything, improves the risk profile for anyone else in that area.
    Of course, you could always advocate the increased use of poison which is the alternative. That is far less discriminate and has even less place in National Parks.

  11. Grumpy

    G’day Tara
    There is a good reason why you cannot answer a straight question with a straight answer and that is because the facts put lie to your argument.
    For a start Chris asked how many incidents had occurred in the last 7 years hunting in state Forests which means by suitably qualified licence holders (R) and you ramble on to bring up illegal hunting in another country and one of the very few hunting or even firearm accidents elsewhere.
    If you want to use that argument why not bring up how many people fall over or suicide without firearms etc IN state forests or public land.
    Firearms and poisons etc are used in NP’s already and by far less qualified persons than the majority of recreational R licence hunters.

  12. Chris

    Seven years ago State Forest employees protested exactly the same as NP staff are now. Every single conservation group is also not protesting, just those which don’t understand or believe what the media keeps telling them.
    You still have not said if you understand the restrictions put on hunters in National Parks. There is a difference between those hunting related deaths and R licensed hunters who are approved to hunt in State Forests and now National Parks. Even though every death is tragic the fact that there has only been 4 deaths in 10 years shows how safe shooting is. There are almost 1 million shooters in Australia, and most other sports wish they had that good of a safety record. Overseas licensing is also completely different to ours and have no where near the licensing requirements needed to hunt in a national parks or state forests.

  13. Tara Moss

    Dear Grumpy,
    I was asked by Chris: “Can you tell me of one incident occurring in the last 7 years”. Yes. A 15 year old boy was shot in the head in a hunting accident in NSW state forest in 2010.
    http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/boy-shot-in-head-in-hunting-accident-20100426-tly2.html#ixzz2GPuLD6Em
    In addition, I plainly stated that according to a report commissioned for the Game Council, there were 4 shooting-related deaths in NSW between 2000 and 2010.
    That is not ‘rambling’.
    Also, being shot in the head is not the same as ‘falling over’.
    Most people are not happy to camp – especially with their children – while armed hunters shoot around them. That should seem obvious to any sensible hunter. The current legislation is unpopular because it is unsafe, even by the government’s own risk assessment. Please treat other park users respectfully in this discussion. There are over 2 million hectares of state forests available for hunting. National parks should be a place where the public can feel safe from bullets and arrows.
    Best wishes,
    Tara

  14. Chris

    I have just been looking that up and can not find Garrawilla State Forest as a forest open to R licensed hunters. Meaning it was either illegally hunting poachers or possibly on a neighbouring farm and the media got the location wrong. Either way it is not related to legal national parks or state forest hunting by accredited R licensed hunters.

  15. John Foxwell

    Tara, you’re probably not aware the hunting has been allowed in a number of Victorian National Parks for almost 20yrs.
    Nothing absolutely resembling the “imaginings’ that you’re putting forward have happened in that State.
    I’ll leave it to you to explain why..

    FWIW, I think it’s appalling that you’ve used an accident in a poor attempt to justify your support for the very spurious (leaked not published) claims as to what constitutes threats from hunting in NSW Natparks.
    The person was injured by one of his own party not as you would have us believe, by some unidentified hunter.

  16. Tara Moss

    Hi John,
    I am aware of the hunting in Victoria. I suppose you will tell me that the hunting accidents that happen in that state (http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/hunters-shocked-over-thurgoona-teens-death-20100727-10tl5.html http://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/article/2012/04/02/463615_latest-news.html) or elsewhere are not relevant to my fears about bushwalking through national parks with my children while you hunt. I am not keen on hearing gun shots while we walk. I will not feel safe just because hunters will need an R rated licence, particularly as R rated licences are available to 12 YEAR OLD children: http://www.gamecouncil.nsw.gov.au/portal.asp?p=Licence-Intro
    Surely there is a way to reduce feral animal populations more effectively, without causing fear to park users?
    http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/4144160.html
    Best wishes,
    Tara

  17. Sam Walker

    The same old misinformation is trotted out every time the antis try to stir this issue up.
    There’s plenty of hunting going on every day, every weekend and accidents are few and far between.
    No hunter wants to hunt in an area frequented by bushwalkers and picnickers, for starters it almost guarantees not seeing any game, and most importantly hunters are acutely aware of the need to be 100% certain of where their bullet is going to stop.
    The opposition to hunting is based on ignorance, and the false premise that hunters are irresponsible hoons who will run wild shooting randomly into the bush.
    Families will be in far more danger driving to the National Parks than they will be from hunters.

  18. Sam Walker

    Tara – as a journalist you could take an even handed, unbiased look at this issue and judge it on all the facts – if you wanted to.

  19. John Foxwell

    Tara,
    If your issue is with hunting in National Parks please outline the accidents that have occurred as a result of hunting those parks.
    So far, you’ve outlined a number of hunting accidents that have nothing to do with National Parks.

    If you are aware of the hunting in Vic Natparks and the accompanying lack of problems between hunting activities and other park uses, why are you suggesting the opposite scenario is likely to occur in this state?

  20. Tara Moss

    Dear John,
    I can’t outline hunting accidents in NSW National Parks by law-abiding hunters, as you know, because legal hunting does not begin here until March. I have outlined a number of hunting accidents in NSW, Victoria and overseas. The point of this is to show that accidents happen, as you would doubtless be aware. That hunters need an R license is of little comfort considering that twelve year olds can obtain that license, and the NSW Game Council has less than 5 full time staff to monitor the hunting activity in NSW.

    The NSW legislation as it stands creates a ‘major risk’ of death or injury from projectiles. For more information, read the government’s own risk assessment below, dated this month:

    Office of Environment and Heritage
    Draft Risk Assessment – 10 December 2012
    Supplementary Pest Control in Parks Program

    SUMMARY OF KEY FINDINGS
    Pages 13-14:
    This risk assessment has identified the following risks associated with the Supplementary Pest Control In Parks Program.
    1. The risk of a projectile/s causing death or a serious injury to people (bullets & arrows)
    2. Confrontation
    3. Risk to Hunters
    4. The risk of damage to property owned by people in point 1
    5. Environmental Impacts
    6. Cultural Heritage
    7. Impacts on Visitation
    8. Credibility (impacts on the NPWS brand)
    9. Interruption to Park operations (NPWS & utilities etc)
    10. Animal welfare

    Pages 15-16:
    Risk assessment in relation to risk 1 – projectile injury
    (The risk of projectile/s causing death or a serious injury to people).
    It ranked the consequence of this risk as major and the likelihood as possible for some user groups (OEH workers, Visitors and R-licensed hunters), giving a risk rating of High.

    etc. Ask for a copy of the full assessment if all the above is not enough.

    I suggest that better legislation will create more peace of mind for other park users, and avoid confrontations between hunters and campers, bushwalkers, park staff and visitors. I maintain that it will not be good for responsible hunters to be associated with legislation like this.

    Best wishes,
    Tara

  21. While I agree with Sam that not all hunters are ‘irresponsible hoons’ the reality is that not all hunters are responsible. I used to be a hunter and can speak from both sides of the fence. Try going out at the opening of duck season on certain north Victorian waters and see how wildly the idiots are going. How we do not have a great many more serious injuries is beyond me.

    While the ‘serious’ hunter would not be terribly interested in trying find ‘game’ in areas frequented by bushwalkers, those aren’t the real danger – it is the far less responsible parties. And in my time I’ve seen some complete eff-wits who have done everything required to achieve registration etc when I firmly believe they should not have had access to so much as a pointed stick. And I find it exceedingly hard to believe that they would not continue to do so. So I support the concerns of Tara and others. And no way in hell should any twelve-year-old have access to a firearm in ANY damned circumstances!! EVER!!!

  22. Jillian

    John – I don’t believe Tara has suggested that recreational hunters would purposely shoot anyone – so what is your issue with her using an accident as an example? Future accidents is exactly what she is asking us to avoid!

    Sam – just because you are a journalist doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to a personal opinion on a situation that potentially impacts the safety of you and your family.

    Some of the comments listed on this blog frankly verge upon cyberbullying Tara. Her opinion seems well-researched – just one that is opposing your own. If you have your own research, then perhaps you too could construct your arguments and present them to the appropriate political representatives instead?

  23. Tara Moss

    Thank you, Jillian and Ross. Responsible hunters should reject this proposal. It is not wanted by the general public or park staff, as polls show, and as a consequence makes hunting look bad.

    Ross, I should in fairness point out that hunters as young as 12 can legally obtain an R licence but not a full shooters licence. They can hunt on public land using bows and arrows, knives, hunting dogs etc. And the Game Council moved this year to have them hunt alone without adult supervision, which I find incredibly dangerous: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-05-05/young-hunters-allowed-more-freedom/3993180

    It says here: http://www.fga.net.au/faq-s-firearms/w3/i1028448/ that you ‘must be 12 years old to apply for a Junior’s Shooter’s License. You can apply for a full license when you turn 18.’ Does that mean a 12 year old can legally shoot a gun on public land with supervision? Perhaps someone can answer that question for me.
    Best wishes,
    Tara

  24. John Foxwell

    I’ll ask the question again Tara, if the state of Victoria has very successfully managed hunting in their parks for almost 20yrs, why is the sky going to fall in when hunting in Natparks commences here in March??

    RossH, you’re more at risk with the greater number of eff-wits on the roads than you’ll ever be from an eff-wit with a gun.

  25. Tara Moss

    Hi John,
    Hello again. The Parks Victoria website has this to say: ‘Most national, state, wilderness, coastal and regional parks are closed to hunting at all times. However, you are allowed to hunt in the parks listed below, subject to various conditions.’
    They then list 9 national parks available for limited hunting. I’m wondering how you compare that to the 79 national parks to be opened to hunting in NSW under this legislation?
    Best wishes,
    Tara
    PS My earlier question was rhetorical. Obviously a Minor’s Firearm Permit allows juniors from age 12 to use firearms & ammunition. An R license can also be obtained at age 12. Can you perhaps understand the concern of park users who don’t like the idea of weapons being used around them?

  26. Sam Walker

    Jillian – Do journalists have the right to pass off their personal opinions as facts ? As a LAFO for 20 years I have been demonised, defamed and slandered in the media by journalists who love to trot out emotive garbage at every opportunity. Take the accident quoted by Tara that allegedly happened in a State Forest open to hunting – the 15y.o boy was struck by a bullet from a “high powered” .222 rifle. The media are the only people who describe a .222 rifle in this way. It is not in fact a high powered cartridge, being the minimum legal cartridge for culling roos with. I certainly wouldn’t want to have an accident with one, but I am too careful for that. It’s like crossing the road, likely to be fatal if you don’t follow the basic rules.
    And your comment ” If you have your own research, then perhaps you too could construct your arguments and present them to the appropriate political representatives instead” it’s already been done Jillian !! despite being a minority of supposedly redneck, barbaric morons etc we have managed to get our interests represented in Parliament through the democratic process.

  27. Chris

    I think most of the opponents think hunting will be happening in areas with walking tracks and camp sites. The fact is that many of the parks listed have almost no visitors and the areas opened in popular parks will be the areas people don’t go. There is over 4 million hectares of national parks in NSW and until recently many of these were state forests where hunting was permitted.

  28. DHV

    Tara try getting out there and observing how it works for yourself rather than just surfing web sites and quoting single sentences to support your arguement. That is not research. Spend a weekend in the bush with our hunting group and try to understand the complexity of the situation. By the way, that group includes environmental PhD’s and Snr public servants; hardly rednecks.
    I understand that you feel anxious about the new arrangements. When you know nothing about this (apart from what the media have published) that is a natural response. But it’s wrong.

  29. Tara Moss

    Hi DHV,
    Perhaps you are not aware of my career. I have experience with firearms, hunters, police, PIs and I am very experienced with research. I have linked to a large variety of articles and facts for this article, if you would care to click through to the links.

    Dear Chris,
    If you can link to any information about what you claim, I would appreciate it. At the moment, there is no firm promise of exclusions zones for places with more than ‘almost no visitors’. This is part of the problem.

    As long as R licensed hunters as young as 12 will be able to shoot weapons in national parks, people will be protesting this.

    Again I suggest you think about the fact that this legislation, as it stands, does not aid in making responsible hunting more accepted by the general public. It is having the direct opposite effect. The hunters and professional shooters I know are not pleased with this development. As you know, I am not happy with this either.

    Again, the assessment:

    Office of Environment and Heritage
    Draft Risk Assessment – 10 December 2012
    Supplementary Pest Control in Parks Program

    SUMMARY OF KEY FINDINGS
    Pages 13-14:
    This risk assessment has identified the following risks associated with the Supplementary Pest Control In Parks Program.
    1. The risk of a projectile/s causing death or a serious injury to people (bullets & arrows)
    2. Confrontation
    3. Risk to Hunters
    4. The risk of damage to property owned by people in point 1
    5. Environmental Impacts
    6. Cultural Heritage
    7. Impacts on Visitation
    8. Credibility (impacts on the NPWS brand)
    9. Interruption to Park operations (NPWS & utilities etc)
    10. Animal welfare

    Pages 15-16:
    Risk assessment in relation to risk 1 – projectile injury
    (The risk of projectile/s causing death or a serious injury to people).
    It ranked the consequence of this risk as major and the likelihood as possible for some user groups (OEH workers, Visitors and R-licensed hunters), giving a risk rating of High.

    etc. Ask for a copy of the full assessment if all the above is not enough.
    Best wishes,
    Tara

  30. Jillian

    Hi Sam – I appreciate the time you took to respond. I rarely post comments on any site but I have to say that I was not comfortable with some of the generalisation and commentary this topic has generated, and felt it was important to say so. The only journalist I’ve discussed here is Tara, and she certainly doesn’t appear to be passing off her personal opinion as fact. Rather she has clearly stated her personal interest and sourced all facts she has presented so they can be checked by the reader if required. That seems like excellent journalism to me. The only thing you can fault is that her opinion is different to your own. So, while I do respect that you feel differently, I will stand by my own comments.

  31. Tara Moss

    Dear Sam,
    With regards to my research for this open letter, you will note that I link to a variety of sources with quotes from park rangers, conservationists, feral animal specialists, politicians and the government.
    With regards to the democratic process, you will note there have been protests over this legislation from locals, walkers, park staff, and politicians from Labor and the Greens. According to the premier himself, he ‘would not have backed shooting in national parks if not for the need to get the power privatisation through the upper house.’

    “THE O’Farrell government has cleared the way for its ambitious infrastructure program by securing a deal with the Shooters and Fishers Party to allow the privatisation of the state’s power generators, expected to yield $3 billion.
    The deal was done at the cost of the Premier having to backflip on his often-stated opposition to the shooting of feral animals in national parks.
    The NSW government, faced with a big fall in its own revenues and GST funds, is under pressure to find the funds for projects such as the north-west rail link while protecting the state’s triple-A credit rating.
    The government’s electricity privatisation bill has been stalled in the NSW upper house because of a lack of support from Shooters and Fishers Party MPs, who share the balance of power.
    Advertisement
    It needs the support of at least one of the MPs to pass legislation opposed by Labor and the Greens.
    The government announced yesterday that the Game and Feral Animal Control Act will be amended to allow shooting of feral animals in “a limited number of areas under strict conditions” but not near metropolitan areas or wilderness or world heritage areas.
    The deal came after a Tuesday night meeting between Mr O’Farrell, the
    Deputy Premier and leader of the NSW Nationals, Andrew Stoner, and the Shooters.
    Under the changes, licensed shooters will be able to apply for access to 79 of the state’s national parks to hunt feral animals including pigs, dogs, cats and goats and deer.
    Mr O’Farrell said culling of feral animals already occurred in some national parks by professional shooters, including the Royal National Park. Hunters will require written permission and need to be licensed by the Game Council of NSW, which regulates recreational hunting. Access conditions will be established by the Environment Minister, Robyn Parker, he said.
    The Premier acknowledged the government would not have backed shooting in national parks if not for the need to get the power privatisation through the upper house.

    Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/power-deal-opens-parks-to-shooters-20120530-1zjje.html#ixzz2GQvGnYpS

  32. Brent

    Hi Tara,
    Children can not use a firearm in conjunction with a R hunting licence until they turn 18.
    You mentioned you carry out research, no doubt in depth, but have you done any research in the “field” in regards to hunting in Australia, especially the existing program carried out in state forrest now?
    I’m sure someone would gladly spend time with you to help you get a hunters view point, and get across that you can’t compare what happens in other countries to Australia and more so NSW.
    And also, I guarantee that R licenced hunters, practice shooting in ranges before they go out to ensure not only that they can humanity hunt for feral pests but also having a better understanding of the consequences when they pull the trigger compared to the majority of any npws staff who currently try to use firearms to controll feral animsls.

    Regards

  33. Sam Walker

    The nature of politics Tara. It’s all about deals, concessions etc etc.
    I note that your sources are all from the Against side of the issue, would that be because the For side is biased ?
    The SMH is far from a balanced or honest source of reporting on hunting or firearms issues. I challenge you to go meet some genuine, ethical hunters, talk to the hunting organisations with an open mind. There are hunters from all walks of life, tradies, professionals, men, women, and youth as you have already noted.

  34. Chris

    I have not seen any information about where hunting areas will be, and am going off what happens in State Forests and where feral animals occur. Many State Forests have only a third available to hunting and these are the least used areas. Animals also avoid high use areas in daylight so there would be no point allowing hunters in these areas anyway.
    I noticed that you said that professional shooters are against this. I am not surprised as commercial shooters do not want to lose their jobs, which rely on high pest numbers.

  35. Tara Moss

    Dear Brent,

    Thank you for your thoughts. I appreciate your feedback. As I have said in the many comments above, I do have experience with hunting, police, professional shooters, and firearms generally (I even passed the FATSII with the LAPD). I am no stranger to the issues surrounding firearms. As you will note from the additional image above, Minor’s Permits can be used for recreational hunting from age 12. (Images: http://www.ssaa.org.au/juniors/photo-gallery.html)

    The NPWS staff I have met in my many travels in national parks are very well trained. Likewise, the professional shooters and trappers who have come on my bush property to carry out trapping programs have been absolute professionals. I don’t see how you can make a broad comment about all amateur hunters having a better understanding of ‘the consequences’ than professional hunters and trappers employed by local government. You can speak for yourself and your own professionalism, but you cannot vouch for all those who have permits.

    I appreciate your thoughts, however, I stand by my opposition to this legislation.

    Best wishes,
    Tara

  36. John E

    Risk management is just that. It is not risk avoidance. Otherwise no planes would be allowed to fly and no child under 18 would be allowed to commute to and from education, or even go outside, without a parent or carer escort, just to take two easy examples. No airline could ever imagine aspiring to the enviable safety record of Australian licensed firearms owners. Airlines would never set their benchmark to what they would properly regard as impossibly idealistic.

    You quote the Greens as though they have recognised expertise. But they don’t. The Greens are highly fallible as proved by their record in restricting burn-offs to contain bushfires. Remember the Victorian bushfires and the loss of life, human and animal, domestic stock and native animals.

    As far as government bureaucrats protecting their jobs and the incomes of commercial culling operators go, the State and nationals parks are over-run with ferals. The commercial operators aircraft dumps of fiendish 1080 poison pellets and carrots haven’t helped. Just to add the obvious, the policy of excluding entry to parks to the favoured few rangers hasn’t helped because the same ‘wilderness’ areas are infested with exotic weeds too.

    I am a long time bushwalker and I come from the land as well. I am more than happy for the few restricted areas proposed by the government to be opened to licensed hunters. The hunting is licensed and strictly controlled and I am sure will bring much needed business to businesses in country towns.

    You seem to be a reasonable person, what additional controls would you demand to make it practical and why?

  37. Tara Moss

    Dear John,
    Thank you for your response.
    I at no time quoted the Greens in my open letter to Premier O’Farrell, above. I quoted the PSA General Secretary speaking on behalf of the park rangers. I also linked through to articles in a wide variety of media, with quotes from all the major political parties. I have not found the facts on recreational hunting for feral animal control to be particularly compelling (http://www.invasives.org.au/documents/file/fs_rechunt2_NSWvfacts.pdf and http://vnpa.org.au/admin/library/attachments/PDFs/Fact%20sheets/FACT%20SHEET-shootinginparks.pdf) however I do agree that something needs to be done. Evidence-based programs targeted to particular species, in specific areas at set times when other park users are not present, and carried out by experts would be my answer. I see nothing in this new legislation that gives me confidence that will be possible under this recreational feral animal hunting scheme.
    Best wishes and many thanks for your time,
    Tara

  38. Sean

    Brent hate to correct you but minors can use a firearm in conjunction with a R-licence, in fact they have been since the introduction of hunting in state forests in NSW and as far as I am aware there have been no incidents.
    Not a supprise considering to obtain their R-licence they need to undertake exactly the same training, testing and meet the same qualification criteria as an adult , to obtain a minors firearms permit once again they need to undertake the same training, testing and qualification criteria as an adult. On top of this they are only allowed to use a firearm under the dirrect supervision of a licenced adult and if hunting on public land then the adult must also hold a R-licence. In other words any minor who is licenced to hunt under the R-licence system has had to prove they have the knowledge, skills & maturity of an adult to qualify and then is under direct supervision of an adult as well.
    Hardly opens it up to any run of the mill 12 year old to pick it up a gun and go shooting
    .
    Tara
    It isn’t a supprise that the risk assesment generated by NP who are opposed to hunting comes up with a high rating. Most assesment matrix can be made to generate the result you are looking for as I’m sure this one was. The less knowledge you have on a subject the more likely you are to exaggerate the dangers. Just like the more knowledge you have the more likely you are to overlook dangers. I’m sure if hunters had done the assesment the risks would have been far lower. Truth is the risk is probably somewhere in between and the whole idea of these assesmants is to identify risks so controls can be put in place to negate any risk before the program is introduced.
    As for hunting in NP well it is all still speculation, yes it has been approved in principle but that is all, where, when and under what restricions is still to be decided so how about people wait to see what is proposed before embracing or condeming it.

    I will say this I have been involved in the R-licence system in two ways, as a hunter hunting in state forests and as a land owner who’s property is bordered on three sides by state forest that is open to hunting, in 7 years haven’t had a negative experience with anyone involved in the R-licence system, I wish I could say the same for regular users of NSW forests.

  39. DHV

    YES!, something needs to be done. Now we are getting somewhere.
    Lets work with the scenario you articulate above.
    Given that the details around access are still being worked out, perhaps that’s how it will be run? I mean, are you going off half cocked here, complaining before the on ground detals are known?
    On the subject of experts; You quote the leaked (and widely ridiculed by the way) risk assessment. Why not also quote these bits too?
    The risk assessment report, produced by the Office of Environment and Heritage, described this R license holders as ”the responsible end of the hunting community”and “are also highly competent marksmen who target shoot at ranges and refine their hunting capacity through the purchase of specialised equipment … and following a code of conduct which incorporates adherence to welfare standards, responsible firearms and environmental use”.
    “Of the four hunting-related deaths in NSW since 2000, none of the victims or people involved held an R-licence.”
    I have sat and passed the competency assessment required for culling kangaroos. Also attempting the test with me were Park Rangers. The amateurs all passed with flying colours, yet the park rangers needed multiple attempts to pass. Clearly if your concern is one of competency, then you are safer with R license holders.

  40. Tara Moss

    Dear Sean,
    Thank you for your message. I am glad you have not had any shooting incidents and your personal experiences have been good. Personally I am deeply uncomfortable with 12 year olds shooting firearms in national parks. It should go without saying that the vast majority of Australians would be horrified to know that minors could legally hunt with firearms on public land.
    The risk assessment was done by the government who introduced this legislation – not a special interest group.
    Best wishes and many thanks for your time,
    Tara

  41. Rob

    First Id like to say Merry Xmass to you & I hope you will have a great new year.

    The best risk assessment on hunting in National Parks you can get based on “facts”, is by finding out how many people “other then hunters themselves” have been shot on public land in NSW, Victoria & even New Zealand ever, then times that by how many hunters actually use public land.
    I don’t listen to TV/radio media that much anymore because often as you may well know, much of it is over exaduated. Have you ever heard the term, “good news never made a paper sell”.
    Too often good people such as yourself that pistol shoots, is made out to be some sort of Rambo or redneck simply because you have an interest in firearms, its not the case is it?

    Media from the greens, guncontrol & NPWS are overwhelmingly antigun, they all think the same, so regardless whether I am right or wrong these groups will oppose my thoughts, even if you agree with them?
    Far too many people are misguided with untruths, all in the name of a story. Im sure you have a tale of two about untruths printed about you im sure.

    Feral animal control is a combined effort, trapping, hunting & poisoning. I know this as I spend a lot of time in the bush on farms & public land, hunting alone wont work, but combined with Govt aerial shooting, trapping & poisoning will.
    To me I see a lovelly lady in you, but just been simply misguided by the media big story.
    Thank you for reading my message.
    Rob

  42. Tara Moss

    Thank you for taking the time to respond, Rob. I maintain my opposition to this legislation as it stands. There are no assurances for the public on how this scheme will operate, and yet they are already accepting applications to hunt in our National Parks. This is bad policy, and in my view bad for everyone – including responsible hunters.
    Best wishes for the new year,
    Tara

  43. Rob

    Just two more things,
    Have you read that statistically proven, its actually safer to teach children how to use guns, then it is to teach riding horses or even swim.

    Also Barry Ofarrel, “would not have backed shooting in national parks if not for the need to get the power privatisation through the upper house”.

    Tara,
    Barry O farrel is telling the state that “missing out on only two votes in an upper house”??? would send the state into a ruckus, surly not. I suppose Barry had to take the media off him as the powersell off was not popular with voters either was it? Particularly the powerfull unions.
    Hunting in national parks was a big media explosion, took the media emphasis off barrys sell off & it worked didn’t it.

  44. Ian Rist

    Hunting in National Parks occurs in many countries Worldwide, highly successful and controlled in countries such as South Africa, New Zealand and many European countries too numerous to mention here.
    It actually aides conservation with huge benifits for all.

  45. Tara Moss

    Dear Ian,
    Thank you for your message. I note you have left messages on this issue at The Hoopla also. I have linked to invasive species experts, and the NSW government’s own assessment, both of which seriously question the effectiveness of this particular scheme.

    I maintain that this unpopular legislation, as it stands, with these protests, possible strikes and a government assessment of ‘high risk’ to park users, does not aid responsible hunters or the image of the sport. The public have no assurances about how it will be controlled or policed, and the Game Council have admitted they employ less than 5 full time staff to monitor all of the hunting already happening on NSW public land – that is about 1 staff member per 1 million hectares of public land, state forests and now national parks. While state and Crown lands attract about 1.2 million visitors each year, the proposed national parks attract between 6 million and 7 million. It seems reasonable for park users to question that equation and the safety of this new scheme.

    Best wishes,
    Tara

  46. Sean

    Tara what is it about the idea of 12 year olds being allowed to hunt that you find so concerning? As I stated earlier to be eligable they have had to proven a level of knowledge, skill, qualifications and maturity equal to any adult and then have added comliance criteria to comply with that doesn’t apply to adults. Given this what is your concern based on, surely you and the majority of Australians you refer to aren’t discriminating simply on age.

  47. Tara Moss

    Dear Sean,
    Thank you again for your comments.
    I respect that you have had good experiences, however minors do not seem to me, or to many other people, to be the appropriate experts chosen for shooting feral animals in NSW national parks as part of a government run feral animal control scheme. Please refer to to the 1000 or so words above to determine what my concerns are, and what they are based on. As you would no doubt be aware, my concerns are by no means limited to the issue of the age requirement, which takes up very little of my letter to Premier O’Farrell (4 words).
    Best wishes,
    Tara

  48. Tara Moss

    Dear DHV,
    Thank you for your willingness to work with the general public to find a solution. I can’t speak for everyone as to what would be acceptable, but at least having detailed answers for the public regarding the full and concrete parameters of this proposal, safety procedures for park users and staff, explanations of evidence-based environmental management plans, promises regarding policing and monitoring, and a comprehensive risk assessment showing at least ‘low risk’ of injury or death for park users will go a long way to assist park users in making decisions about whether they can feel safe in parks once shooting begins. So far the government are advertising for hunters to join in with the hunting in national parks, and they are accepting applications, yet the only risk assessments from the government that have been made available to the public show a ‘high risk’ situation, and no one wants that, least of all responsible hunters who will find their sport tarnished.
    Best wishes,
    Tara

  49. Sean

    Tara I’m still struggling to comprehend your objections, I can understand your safety concerns but given we are yet to see anything from the government with regards to how it will be introduced and your concerns all seem to be safety based I think you may well be concerned over nothing.
    Almost every concern that has been raised was also raised when hunting was preposed in state forests and all have proven to be groundless. I am not aware of any incidents with regards to the current state forest system and can not see why a similar system wouldn’t be equally succesful and safe within our national parks.
    One thing that you may have overlooked is that it was anounced that shooting of pest animals will not be permitted in or near metropolitan areas, or in any wilderness or world heritage area. Other exclusion zones will apply to those parks that are declared to ensure staff, park visitor, volunteer and neighbour safety and to protect special park values.

  50. John

    Hi Tara,

    Earlier you said that you didn’t find the arguments for R licence conservation management hunting to be compelling. Just to correct something that is a little misleading, the R licence hunters certified by government are as much ‘government’ authorised and approved hunters as any other except they are not there for a commercial reason and nor are they salaried bureaucrats with jobs to protect.

    Also, you have not compared the training or licensing between the R licence holders and commercial operators and public bureaucrats. What can you offer to prove significantly better competency of the bureaucrats and commercial operators? Are the public bureaucrats required to meet and abide by all of the requirements of the Weapons Act and available regulations?

    What risk assessment if any is available regarding the work done in culling and using poisons eg 1080 by bureaucrats and commercial operators? Do commercial operators or government bureaucrats use semi-automatic rifles, semiautomatic or P/A shotguns, or pistols in the field? Do they use them from vehicles or aircraft?

    It is indisputable that no one method of control will be successful. All can work in conjunction. Likewise the rights of hunters should be protected. As well, the hunters will bring valuable trade to country towns, many of which are failing to thrive.

  51. Tara Moss

    Dear John,
    Thank you for your comments. You raise some excellent points. I appreciate it. It is a complex issue and I am sure a correct system can be put in place where park users and staff are deemed safe, and safe and humane feral culling can take place.
    Best wishes and many thanks,
    Tara

  52. Tara Moss

    Thank you to everyone who has responded to this open letter regarding the new legislation which has just opened 79 national parks in NSW to recreational hunting. I appreciate the responses.

    Bushwalkers and other park users are good folks. We all want to feel safe, and we all want to look after the environment and the beautiful public spaces we share together.

    In my view it is in the interests of responsible hunters, like some of those who have commented here, and all other public park users to consider the protests to this legislation and the current risk assessment of there being a ‘major risk’ (this is the only assessment that has been made to the public as of this writing) and help encourage a better situation. Thank you all for taking the time to respond.

    Due to time commitments I won’t be able to moderate and add to the posts here. Inappropriate and aggressive comments have been removed.

    Best wishes,
    Tara

Comments are closed.