The Risks

Government draft risk assessment - February 2013

Version six of the NSW Government's own risk assessment of the Supplementary Pest Control Program clearly outlines that recreational hunting in national parks presents various risks.

E.G: "Several different groups of people were identified in relation to the risk of projectile injury....
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."

Click here to download the February 2013 draft risk assessment

Recreational hunters are not professionals

In order to hunt in state forests and national parks you must be over 12 years of age, must pass R-license accreditation, and be a member of a Game Council Approved Hunting Organisation.

To pass the R-license test, it is possible to obtain assistance during the test, there is no requirement to undertake any species identification training nor requirement to demonstrate any level of skill. It is possible to obtains a license having never fired a gun.

It is also possible for a child as young as 12 years of age learn to use a gun in a national park under the supervision of a poorly skilled hunter.

Listen to this 15 May 2013 broadcast where the NSW Premier, ironically, assures the public that hunting in NSW national parks is as safe as fires!

Read this article by the RSPCA:
"Is recreational hunting an effective and humane form of pest animal management in National Parks?"

Environmental risks

The list of threatened species grows each year, however instead of increasing funding for conservation each year, the NSW Coalition Government has been reducing it. Our national parks play a vital role in providing safe havens for native plants and animals.

Allowing recreational hunting into our national parks has been justified by politicians as a way of reducing feral animal populations, therefore helping our environment. However, there is strong evidence that volunteer hunting is not an effective method of feral animal control. The program will take resources away from the professional pest control programs managed by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Professional hunting programs have produced positive, scientific based conservation outcomes for our national parks, however funding towards these programs has not been increased. Instead, $19.1 million dollars of tax payers money is being invested in the "Supplementary Pest Control Program" which will achieve fewer results, if any, and additionally poses threats to public safety and animal welfare.

The Invasive Species Council (ISC) has produced several key documents that give a scientific critique of the effectiveness of volunteer/recreational hunting in controlling feral animals.

In its document “Is recreational hunting effective for feral animal control”, ISC states:

“To date, it is likely that greater harm than good has resulted from recreational hunting of feral animals, with most species having expanded in range and numbers despite hunting and, in some cases, because of hunting. The evidence indicates that recreational hunting is not effective as a major or primary method of feral animal control. Where there has been a comparison, professional cullers (using the same or different methods) are far more effective.”

"Genuine reductions in population can only be achieved by sustained and carefully planned programs that meet specific targets for numbers of animals killed. These need to exceed that rate at which populations can replace themselves."

While the Game Council may report in terms of number of animals killed per year, this has no impact when those numbers are placed in the frame of the entire population of a species. For example, there are 7 million foxes in Australia, killing 1638 in NSW will have absolutely no impact on controlling the overall population of the species.

Animal welfare issues arising

WIRES is a not for profit organisation dedicated to the rescue, care and release of native animals. In March 2013 it reported concerns about the number of native animals injured and killed from hunting related activities since May 2012, the period when changes to legislation to allow hunting in national parks were announced.

WIRES commented this may be from assumptions around the legality of hunting in national parks by some hunters. Despite this, there is an unfavourable trend that the organisation is concerned about.

Missed Opportunities

Conservation and animal welfare groups are lobbying the government to shift the $19.1m it intends to invest in the recreational hunting program to professional pest animal control programs. As well as helping the conservation of our national parks, these significant funds could support further research into humane methods for removing pest animals.

Government draft risk assessment - 10 December 2012

Below is a summary of the key findings from the NSW Government's own risk assessment produced 10 December 2012.

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

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.
Risk assessment in relation to Risk 2 - confrontation
(The risk of confrontation associated with the Supplementary Pest Control In Parks Program)
It rated likelihood as possible for hunter related confrontations and likely for public-authorised officer conflicts (based on level of public protest), giving a risk rating of high to medium for confrontation incidents.

Page 18:
Risk assessment in relation to Risk 7 – visitation impact
(The risk of the Supplementary Pest Control In Parks Program having adverse impacts on visitation)
It ranked the consequences of all these risks components as moderate to high and likelihood of possible to probable, giving a risk rating of medium for visitor experience and high for visitor perceptions and commercial impacts.

Page 19:
Risk assessment in relation to Risk 10 – animal welfare impact
(The risk of the Supplementary Pest Control In Parks Program causing increased adverse animal welfare outcomes)
This risk was divided into 2 classes (wounding of animals due to low hunter accuracy and the welfare risk associated with bows. These sub-risks were evaluated for the Supplementary Pest Control In Parks Program using the OEH Risk Matrix. It ranked the probability of both risks as possible

Page 23:
Post Incident Controls – the purpose of post incident controls is to reduce the consequences when serious incidents arise.
However for very serious injuries and fatalities the capacity of first aid to alter outcomes post event will be limited.

Page 26:
The following controls were considered but have not been incorporated as standard controls. They may be used in some specific circumstances in Zone B and Zone A areas where warranted by the level of risk.
> Use of exclusion areas along roads and walking trails and setting of minimum distances between hunters and other users based on projectile danger zones
> The requirement for hunters to have a competency equal or equivalent to that specified in the OEH firearms manual for other firearms users on park
> The requirement for hunters to operate under the direct supervision of OEH staff while undertaking general hunting operations