Australians in the state of New South Wales will soon be able to harvest pest animals in the region’s national parks following a decision by its State Parliament. A bill to amend the Game and Feral Animal Control Act 2002 was introduced by the Shooters and Fishers party on June 15 and had passed both the lower and upper house of the legislature as of June 21.

The bill allows hunting in 79 national parks, nature reserves and conservation areas. Shooting would be banned in areas in and around Sydney, Newcastle, Wollongong, the Central Coast and the Blue Mountains.

From a transcript of the reading of the bill:

The bill will allow the Minister responsible for the national park estate to declare that land, under the Game and Feral Animal Control Act 2002, [open] for the purposes of shooting feral animals by persons who hold a restricted game hunting licence.

The national cost of controlling feral animals is estimated to total $720 million (Australian) per year, according to the report “Counting the Cost: Impact of Invasive Animals in Australia, 2004.”

Officials estimate that there are 7.2 million foxes throughout Australia that kill enormous numbers of native fauna and farm animals each year. The National Parks and Wildlife Service estimates that at least 24,000 feral game animals were eradicated on national park estate in 2010 and 2011.

“That included almost 10,000 feral pigs, 8,500 feral goats, 2,500 rabbits, 2,000 foxes, 600 wild dogs and more than 250 deer. As we all know, that is the tip of the iceberg and, unfortunately, all indicators suggest we need to increase our efforts and be more strategic in our allocation of available resources,” according to Member of Parliament (MP) Katrina Hodgkinson, who read the bill.

Since 2004, approximately 2.6 million game and feral animals have been removed from all lands, public and private, by licensed game hunters in New South Wales.

MP for the Shooters party Robert Brown says using volunteers to cull feral animals in state forests has been effective, and that volunteers will be effective in national parks as well.

Hodgkinson quoted Game Council figures of 17,000 game hunting licenses that were issued as of March 2012. That number is expected to reach 20,000 by the end of the year.

“Importantly, this will include appropriate safety measures and only persons who are appropriately qualified and licensed will be permitted to help remove feral animals from our national parks,” Hodgkinson said to Radio Australia.

The bill was met with fierce opposition from the Greens party, arguing that the bill will have a negative effect on tourism and called the ability of hunters to accurately shoot targeted game into question. National Parks and Wildlife Service Ranger Kim de Govrik told a rally of demonstrators dressed in kangaroo and owl costumes gathered the day the bill was passed that shooting in national parks would jeopardize the safety of rangers and bush-walkers.

The bill won’t take effect until six months after the Governor of New South Wales, Marie Bashir, assents to its passage, a formality that occurs after legislation is passed by the State Parliament.

Special thanks to the Shooters and Fishers Party and MP Robert Borsak for their timely responses to our queries on this issue.

Image from Harley Kingston, Harlz_ on flickr

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