The introduction of hunting in national parks will be delayed until at least June after Premier Barry O’Farrell ordered a review of the governance of the Game Council NSW, the taxpayer-funded body which is supposed to oversee the program.
Recreational hunting was due to begin in 77 NSW national parks, including Myall Lakes National Park, on Friday but has been delayed amidst damaging leaks from the office of environment and heritage (OEH) which have raised fears about the safety of park users and staff should recreational hunting be allowed to go ahead.
The first leak came from the premier’s department of the OEH on December 21 last year and warned of a “major risk” that bushwalkers and National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) staff could be injured or killed. Another draft risk assessment leaked last week again raised safety issues for NPWS staff and also suggested that hunters would not require supervision in particular areas (referred to as Zone C).
Mr O’Farrell told parliament on Thursday that he had ordered a review of the governance of the Game Council in response to a report of an investigation into alleged illegal hunting by two Game Council employees on a property in outback NSW, allegedly involving a senior Game Council executive.
Mr O’Farrell said hunting in national parks would not begin until the government had received the review, which is due by May 31.
Informed of the review by the Advocate on Thursday assistant general secretary of the NSW Public Service Association (PSA) Steve Turner told the Advocate that he welcomed the review and said the PSA, which represents park rangers, will continue to oppose hunting in national parks.
"We've been pushing for an investigation into those allegations so it's good to see that's occurred," Mr Turner said.
"We've opposed this policy since the beginning, recreational hunting as a pest eradication strategy is ridiculous particularly when we already have working pest eradication strategies being carried by professionals from the National Parks and Wildlife."
Mr Turner said that the PSA had been considering possible industrial action following the leak of a draft risk assessment from the office of environment and heritage last week.
"The government's own report stated that there was a high risk of injury or death to national parks staff so we were considering industrial action from an OH&S perspective. We'll continue to monitor the situation."
Justin McKee from the National Parks Association of NSW also told the Advocate that the association's campaign against hunting in national parks would continue.
"Barry O'Farrell has basically just hit the pause button so we will be continuing our campaign. Hunting has absolutely no place in our national parks," Mr McKee said.