The action of developing a Victorian Deer Management Strategy, committed to in 2016 through the Sustainable Hunting Action Plan (SHAP), seeks to “Develop a deer management strategy that sets a strategic plan to maintain sustainable hunting opportunities while reducing the impact of deer on biodiversity on all land tenures in the state”.
The SHAP is a $5.3 million investment in a whole of government plan aimed at ensuring that all Victorians will gain from growing the economic, environmental and social benefits of responsible, sustainable and safe hunting, now and into the future.
The SHAP has already delivered some positive outcomes for hunters and the broader community.
We have actively participated in the process of developing the strategy. We have appreciated from the outset that the strategy would fail if it was purely aimed at appeasing hunters, just as it would fail if it aimed simply to appease any other sectional interest.
The Draft Strategy went out to public consultation late last year, with submissions closing on October 29.
It outlines a zone-based approach, which requires a partnership between all levels of Government, Traditional Owners, conservation and community groups, Landcare, water authorities, Catchment Management Authorities, the deer farming industry, the commercial deer harvest industry, the broader community and, of course, deer hunters and their hunting organisations.
Whilst this zone-based approach to management may be new to Australia, it is proven best practice elsewhere in the world.
In North America, wildlife, such as wild deer, are successfully managed using a zone framework.
In the United Kingdom, The Deer Initiative brings together a similar range of stakeholders as outlined in the Draft Victorian Strategy to manage the four species of introduced and two species of native deer there across the landscape. The key to the Deer Initiative’s success is that partners park their own prejudices and ideologies to work productively on areas of mutual agreement to achieve results on the ground.
The Australian Deer Association has long been committed to a similar co-operative approach to wild deer management in Australia.
In 2016 we presented on this need at the Conservation through the Sustainable Use of Wildlife Conference in Brisbane.
Last week we were forwarded a campaign letter authored by the Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA).
The VNPA is a lobby group which shares an office building with the leader of the Victorian Greens Political Party and which harbours an ideological opposition to the active use of public land (including hunting).
Despite this fundamental difference there are a number of areas in which the policies and positions of groups like the Australian Deer Association overlap with those of the VNPA - fundamentally we all want well managed public land.
The VNPA’s letter is calling on Government Ministers to abandon the sound, scientific underpinnings of the Draft Strategy and to essentially ignore the role of Victoria’s >37,000 licenced deer hunters and the >100,000 deer they harvest annually.
In response to this, we, along with our colleagues at the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia (Vic) wrote directly to Ministers Symes and D’Ambrosio late last week to re-assert our commitment to a practical strategy that works for the entire community, and, to implore the Ministers to re-assert the Government’s commitment to the SHAP as written and to reject this attempt by the VNPA to impose their narrow ideology on a community which needs inclusive and practical actions.