THE hunting of hog deer at Snake Island will be allowed during a two year State Government trial, operating under a ballot system similar to that at Blond Bay State Game Reserve in the Gippsland Lakes region.
Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio announced on August 22 that the trial, which will commence in February 2017, will provide further opportunity for safe and sustainable recreational hunting in the area.
“Opening up Snake Island to balloted Hog Deer hunting will bring new visitors into the region, which will benefit local businesses and tourism operators,” said Ms D’Ambrosio.
“Balloted hunting will be conducted in a way that minimizes the impact on other users of Snake Island and places safety as its highest priority.”
Strictly regulated by the Game Management Authority (GMA), the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and Parks Victoria, no more than eight hunters will be allowed to hunt at any one time, and hunting will not be permitted on weekends or public holidays. It is estimated that there are around 500 hog deer on the island.
“Hunters have been asking for this since the 1960s and actively campaigning for balloted hunting on Snake Island for the past twenty five years,” said Australian Deer Association (ADA) Victorian President Col Brumley.
“Snake Island holds a large percentage of Victoria’s hog deer and Minister D’Ambrosio is to be commended for recognising that a highly valued and sustainable use of this unique piece of public land has been denied to law abiding hunters without good reason for far too long,” Mr Brumley said.
Whilst members of the ADA rejoice in news of the trial, it has come as a shock to many, including members of the Snake Island Cattlemen’s Association.
“We’ve fought this alongside other stakeholders of the island for the last 40 years,” said Snake Island Cattlemen’s Association president, Peter Mabilia, who added that farmers have been grazing cattle on the island for close to 100 years.
“There has been absolutely no consultation with the Association whatsoever. It’s hard to believe that this sort of thing can happen in our society today.
“Whether this decision to hold a two year deer hunting trial on Snake Island is right or wrong is, of course, a very big deal – but to see it happen in this way without consultation with the Association, the kayakers, bushwalkers and campers is outrageous.
“This has come so suddenly that there has been no opportunity to put objections forward. We’ve been provided with very little in the way of detail, other than the duration of the trial and that it will coincide with our four month peak season of February through to May, which is sure to impact upon our tourist trips,” Mr Mabilia said.
He explained that as the trips run Fridays to Sundays, Saturdays to Mondays and midweek and all are governed by the tides, chances are there would be tourists as well as shooters on the island at any given time – posing a risk to public safety and decreasing public interest in the tours.
“We’re not necessarily against shooting and hunting, but we believe that Snake Island is a very inappropriate place in which to carry out this activity,” Mr Mabilia said, adding that no sustainability study has been carried out, nor has a management plan been completed by Parks Victoria.
Mr Mabilia added that although the number of eight shooters at a time seems to be a low figure, it would no doubt amount to a substantial number of shots fired.
“The Snake Island Cattlemen’s Association have consistently opposed hunting on the Island, citing concerns about public safety, sustainability and tourism,” said Mr Brumley.
“The Cattlemen’s fears are no doubt sincerely held, but they are completely unfounded. Two expert risk assessments from Victoria Police over the past four years have confirmed that there is no risk to public safety.
Twenty-eight years of balloted hunting for hog deer on the mainland has proven that the model is sustainable. A half a century of hunting on the neighbouring, co-operative owned, Sunday Island has had no negative effect on tourism,” Mr Brumley said.
Mr Brumley committed to working with the cattlemen to address any concerns.
“We (ADA) made a commitment back in 2012 that, when hunting did finally come to the Island, hunters would do everything they could to make it work for the cattlemen. We have every intention of honouring that commitment”
The Nationals Member for Gippsland South, Danny O’Brien has criticized the Labor Government for its failure to consult the local community and stakeholders before approving hog deer hunting on Snake Island.
Mr O’Brien said it was astounding that Labor had approved a two year trial of a hog deer hunting ballot without speaking to key local stakeholders such as the Snake Island Cattlemen’s Association and local tourism operators.
“Labor has come out of the blue and announced hunting will be allowed without speaking to anyone locally on this,” Mr O’Brien said, adding that this has been a contentious issue for many years and that the announcement came as a complete surprise to those opposed to hunting on the island.
Mr O’Brien said The Nationals in Government had conducted a thorough public consultation process to consider this issue in 2012 before announcing in early 2013 there would be no hunting.
“The former government held a public meeting in Port Welshpool and took submissions from all sides of the debate before making a decision against a trial based on concerns about the impact on tourism and recreational activities in and around the island.
“Labor has considered no such local voices in making this decision. Labor’s Harriet Shing is missing in action when it comes to listening to Gippsland locals,” Mr O’Brien said.
Calls from Mr Mabilia to Ms Shing had not been returned when The Mirror went to press.
Mr O’Brien said he was a strong supporter of hunting activity generally and supported the rights of law-abiding hunters but was concerned that Labor did not even give locals opposed to hunting on Snake island the opportunity to have their say.
Mr Mabilia said that the Snake Island Cattlemen’s Associatin will be meeting with Parks Victoria to gather further information and that by working in with the relevant bodies, hope to find that there may be something that can be done to alter what appears to be an inevitable outcome.