The continued exodus of millions of game hunting dollars out of Queensland is not likely to be stemmed, despite the latest push by the Australian Deer Association’s state branch.
The hunting of game and feral animals is not generally permitted on public land, such as state forests, in Queensland, despite its safe operation in most other states and territories.
Although the hunter education group is keen to see this reversed, feedback from the major parties is not encouraging.
ADA Queensland president Adrian Filche has been promoting the benefits of changing the rules in advance of the state election, on economic and environmental grounds.
A May 2017 report on the economic impact of recreational hunting in NSW, compiled by that state’s Game Licencing Unit, estimated the value of the industry to the state’s economy as $119 million.
It follows a 2014 Victorian government report, which found that hunting was worth $439 million.
According to Mr Filche, Queenslanders are spending $6 million a year in NSW to hunt game on public land.
“I take groups of 20 to Narrabri at Christmas time to hunt pigs and goats in the Pillaga State Forest,” he said. “A maximum of seven days hunting is allowed, and in all that time we’re using local facilities at a quiet time of the year.”
In another example, he said a New England landholder had set up a B&B on his property bordering a state forest, receiving a second industry from paying customers, as well as benefiting from a reduction in pest animals moving between the public land and his property.
“Significant tracts of public land in Queensland are full of pest animals,” Adrian said. “We’ve had conversations for 25 years with all sides of politics on this, and we believe it’s time the issue was highlighted more broadly in regional and rural Queensland.”
Political cold shoulder
When contacted, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation’s national executive secretary, Rod Miles referred to the party’s national firearms policy, which has no mention of hunting on public land.
All an LNP spokesman would say was that the opposition supported licenced sport shooters and would partner with the Sporting Shooters’ Association for certain pest management activities.
A similar response was received from the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, with a spokeswoman saying both the Department of National Parks and the Department of Environment have established legal arrangements with the Sporting Shooters Association Australia to support specific pest animal control and monitoring programs on state land.
“The arrangements with SSAA ensure that marksmen comply with their obligations and participate appropriately, effectively, safely and in accordance with animal welfare guidelines,” she said. “The SSAA also has a Farmer Assist program, which introduces recreational shooters to primary producers for feral animal control.”
The introduction of hunting on state land wasn’t supported for reasons including safety of community, doubts about effectiveness of hunting to control feral animals, and animal welfare issues.
Mr Filche, who has trained 1500 people for NSW hunting purposes as an accredited trainer, said SSAA management exercises didn’t give access to public land on a wholesale basis.
”There’s the usual chant about safety but there are no statistics to back it up with from other states,” he said. “We teach people the rules around what to wear, about exclusion areas, listening to channel 40, and so on.”
He said the Northern Territory was in the process of beginning Back Country Hunting in Litchfield National Park, meaning the government there wouldn’t have to pay for helicopter management.
“The staff can do their primary business and the government gets revenue from it.”
Public versus private
The QPWS spokeswoman said their protected area plus state forests represented less than 7 per cent of Queensland, but the remaining land, approximately 45 per cent pastoral leases, and 24 per cent freehold land, could be used by recreational shooters with landholder permission.
Mr Filche said getting access was a challenge that depended on establishing a personal relationship, and people generally didn’t want to strain that relationship with too large a group.
He said being restricted to hunting only on private land wasn’t enough to keep pest animals at bay, but QPWS saw it the other way around, citing a 2016 NSW pest animal management review that said while recreational hunting could be a valuable part of a pest management program, population control was not the primary purpose of most recreational hunters.
“Shooting on its own is rarely an effective population control method,” it said.
The QPWS spokeswoman added that ABARES and the Australasian Wildlife Management Society each said shooting was ineffective in significantly reducing pest animal densities and impacts, particularly over the longer term.