Oxley park target of recreational hunters

REGIONAL politicians and lobbyists have united in the fight against a NSW law allowing recreational hunters to shoot feral animals in national parks.

Oxley Wild Rivers and Dorrigo national parks, as well as the Gibraltar Range east of Glen Innes are three of 79 parks where recreational shooters will be able to hunt feral animals. 

The parks all have areas that are world heritage listed. Concerns were raised earlier this week after a leaked government report found a risk that a stray bullet or arrow fired by a hunter could hit someone.

Beth Williams, secretary of the Armidale branch of the National Parks Association, a voluntary community conservation organisation, said the body was urging hikers and picnicers not to access the parks while hunters were there.

“We’re very concerned about the safety and risk to people,” Ms Williams said yesterday.

“I’m told bullets can travel for about two kilometres. While hunters may aim for a dingo, if they miss their mark, the bullet could travel straight to a picnic area.”

Northern Tablelands MP Richard Torbay said he remained opposed to the amendment, which saw NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell strike a deal with Shooters Party MPs to pass a power privatisation bill. 

“I believe this policy was a compromise to sell the power generators and I opposed and voted against that legislation in Parliament,” Mr Torbay said yesterday. 

“I remain opposed to it. It represents poor policy arrived at for the wrong reasons.”

Acting mayor Herman Beyersdorf also sounded the alarm over the bill.

While Mr O’Farrell promised there would be no shooting near ski fields or in parks near metropolitan areas, Cr Beyersdorf raised concerns many local residents used Oxley Rivers Natiomal Park for picnics and even the Blue Hole might not be safe from recreational shooters.

“It’s very disturbing and I am totally opposed to this bill,” he said.

Ms Williams said she was urging association members to write to their local MP and call for the bill to be repealed.  Meanwhile, access to national parks could be interrupted over summer as rangers mulls ways of venting their ire over the shooting amendment bill.

Anger among staff at the National Parks and Wildlife Service intensified after the leaked draft risk assessment report, which showed the state government would push ahead with the plan in the face of warnings that a fatality or serious injury by gun wound was a major risk once shooting begins in March.

Fairfax Media understands rangers are considering refusing to collect entrance fees as a way to keep parks open and shield the public from the industrial dispute while hitting the NSW government in the hip pocket.

Steve Turner of the Public Service Association said rangers had reached boiling point after the risk assessment listed parks' staff, contractors and volunteers at the top of those at risk of projectiles, including bullets and the arrows of bow hunters.

Rangers on the south coast and southern highlands are considering the industrial action as they step up opposition to hunting in national parks.

Hunting by approved shooters is expected to start in March, targeting ferals such as pigs and goats, which are prevalent in sections of local national parks. 

Rangers have refused to rule out strike action. 

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