The Daily Telegraph in New South Wales is reporting today (paywall) on a plan by the New South Wales cabinet to remove licencing requirements for hunting deer on private land (or, as the Telegraph put it…"A secret plan to treat deer as pests and allow anyone with a gun licence to shoot them").
The editorial (paywall) in that paper goes further into the realms of misinformed hyperbole, leaving us with the ‘startling revelation’ that there are now deer near Wollongong (they’re only 113 years late with that story) and spouting drivel about ‘eradication’ (which no credible wildlife scientist believes is feasible).
Other media outlets are dutifully and uncritically reporting the Macquarie Street spin. Serious questions remain about how this spin reconciles with the restrictive, activity based, licensing requirements for shooters in New South Wales and about how animal welfare concerns will be addressed.
There are issues with overabundant wild deer in areas of New South Wales. The ongoing drought has exacerbated these issues as primary producers struggle to maintain their businesses and wildlife increasingly encroaches on improved pasture in search of basic nutrition. Wild deer, like kangaroos and other wildlife, need to be managed for overabundance. This management needs to be tenure blind - many of the deer causing issues for farmers in New South Wales take refuge on crown land. In New South Wales hunters are excluded from vast tracts of public land like National Parks for transparently political reasons. It is within the power of the New South Wales Government to address this obvious anomaly for the benefit of primary producers.
Any suspension of regulations will ultimately do nothing demonstrable to help landowners – where deer are overabundant they still need to find someone to control them and the existence of a relatively inexpensive and easy to obtain licence has not been the limiting factor in that. What a suspension will do is take the responsibility of ensuring that hunters are humane, knowledgeable, safe and insured away from government (where it belongs) and onto landholders, who already have enough on their plates.
We urge the New South Wales Government to put some minimum requirements in place for the control of wild deer on private land as the Victorian government has done (minimum calibers etc.), in order to ensure that animal welfare concerns are addressed and that the changes do not exacerbate issues with illegal hunting. We also urge them to commit to finalising the New South Wales Deer Management strategy which has been gathering dust on a shelf in draft for over a year now.
For wildlife management to be effective it needs to be based on data and evidence and be developed in consultation with all interested stakeholders, not selectively ‘leaked’ as policy on the run to appease a noisy lobby group.