On June 20, the Inquiry into the control of invasive animals on Crown land (Vic) was tabled. This inquiry was undertaken to look into the benefits of Parks Victoria and other agencies such as the Game Management Authority’s use of community hunting organisations and individuals in the control of invasive animals on Crown land.
The Terms of Reference included but were not limited to:
1. Assessment of the biodiversity outcomes, community safety and limitations of the trial conducted by Parks Victoria on control of deer populations in a national park;
2. Consideration of the application of these types of programs for other invasive animal species in partnership with Crown land managers; and
3. Assessment of the relative costs and benefits, financial or otherwise, of other forms of pest control in national parks.
This report highlighted the continuing expansion of invasive species in Victoria and the greater need for control activities. Invasive species control was referred to as complex and that determining the most appropriate management strategy is not a straightforward task. As with many things in wildlife management, the lack of robust data regarding the effectiveness and relative costs and benefits of different containment methods is an issue in Victoria.
It was reported that there was broad agreement that recreational hunting cannot remove enough animals by itself to stem the invasive animal problems in Victoria. One factor that the SSAA would like to add to this observation is the exact same thing can be said of other tools as well. For instance, trapping alone cannot solve all invasive animal issues in Victoria, nor can just poison baits or sole reliance on exclusion fencing.
There is no ‘silver bullet’ that on its own will do the job, so every tool has its place. Luckily, we are not the only ones with this view. It was reported that evidence received also suggested that recreational hunting can be an effective part of programs involving multiple control methods. I am all for recreational hunting being included in pest management planning to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of control activities. There needs to be a little more recognition in some circles that hunting is a legitimate tool.
The report stated that to effectively curb invasive animals there needs to be a change in the way that government and its agencies handle the problem. Above all, there is a real necessity for a strategic approach and a single point of responsibility and accountability. This ties in well with the earlier statement regarding recreational hunting gaining more welcome recognition as a legitimate tool. It is a tool that can be manipulated to suit different situations.
The report also discussed differences in the costs and efficiency of using volunteer shooters compared to professionals. It is a no-brainer that volunteers are cheaper but a compelling issue surrounding efficiency differences lies in the access to equipment to ensure the job is done. Professional shooters have access to self-loading firearms and suppressors, volunteers simply do not. This issue was identified as a barrier to successfully using hunting in animal control.
It was pleasing to read that the report recommended the Victorian Government should facilitate greater access to Category C and D firearms for recreational hunters undertaking invasive animal and pest restraints. It was also suggested that recreational hunters be included in the categories of people eligible to obtain suppressors. We fully support such proposals, not just in Victoria but also across the country. We’re sick of hearing that one group of shooters is more effective than others when the main reason is simply access to better equipment. Both groups are vetted by the police, so what is the problem?