I know you kindly read my letter opposing shooting in NSW National Parks. Thank you. I sent it off to the various politicians and have only had one response so far, which was from The Hon George Souris, who informed me that most of the shooting would be on private land, of ducks in areas near the Murray. This made me quite curious as to why the National Parks are so nicely spread over NSW, but I began to look into the duck hunting/Game Bird Management Program more closely, since wild duck numbers have been 'unmanaged' in recent years and ducks pose a threat to rice crop as it becomes established. I know local ducks quickly consumed $80 000 worth of young plants at a Canberra wetlands last year, so I believe the ducks really might be a problem to farmers however the more I read the more horrified I became about what will really happen.
Because the NSW Government was forced to make a deal with the Shooters and Fishers Party, that party have been able to push through significant changes in the law. If you didn't know, NSW axed the duck hunting season in 1995, which like all such seasons, had a fixed term. Because ducks have been 'unmanaged' in recent years, there is now no season or bag limit for licensed shooters to 'mitigate' against these ducks. And to thwart protestors, the areas available for shooting will only be made known to those licensed. Hunters and Fishers want to get on with the job, without protestors slowing proceedings and it is illegal to interfere with 'conservation hunting'. This is part of the new law.
All this might even be ok, if it weren't for Australian native birds, who have been around since before the politicians, since before the rice crop, since before all of us white guys. Westen folk (yes including me) have had an enormous impact on the fragile Austalian biota and a number of native birds are now threatened and endangered. If you have a notion of legal processes in this country, you will know that a substantial effort has been made for such a classification to be recognised.
But for what? The areas the birds live in, and I am now referring particularly to the endangered Australasian Bittern, are now open to conservation hunters. Don't get me wrong, I don't mean everywhere, but on private land it is possible for children as young as twelve*, to be licensed as conservation hunters, to mitigate against unmanaged ducks, any time, any amount of birds. For sure they must pass a WIT (Waterfowl Identification Test) so they know the difference between a duck and a bittern but please don't try and tell me that children, however well intentioned, won't make mistakes. And don't try to convince me that adults won't make mistakes. And any mistakes, any unecessary flushing of birds, any stressed birds is bad news for our surviving Bittern.
As a result I have written a new letter to Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation as follows. I will send it in a day or two.
* I'm not sure about the age of the youngest conservation hunters. I know ten year olds can sit for the Waterfowl Identification Test, which only ever needs to be taken once but I think the minimum age for hunting is 12.