PUBLIC safety heads a long list of concerns the Snake Island Cattlemen’s Association has with a proposal to allow balloted Hog Deer hunting on Snake Island.
Members of the association held a meeting at the Foster CFA last Friday night to discuss the proposal.
“We have been aware of this proposal since May, when we visited Snake Island with the Parliamentary Secretary for Primary Industries, Bill Sykes, along with representatives of Parks Victoria and a representative from the Department of Primary Industries,” said association member Jenny Bland.
“Our primary concern has been and always will be public safety. Firearms and unsuspecting visitors are not a good mix in terrain that is densely vegetated and predominately flat. Previous proposals for balloted hunting on the island have been disallowed in the interests of public safety.”
A government spokesperson acknowledged that there has been a proposal for a balloted hunt of deer on Snake Island. She said the proposal came from the Victorian Hunting Advisory Committee and the government is currently evaluating it, seeking the views of all stakeholders.
“Consultation is continuing, and no time frame has yet been set for making a decision. For such a proposal to be endorsed, the proponents would need to demonstrate a clear benefit for the local community,” she advised.
The current group of cattlemen and women are members of an association which has had involvement with Snake Island in Corner Inlet since 1887. Agistment began on the island on a private basis in 1887. The Snake Island Agisters, now known as the ‘Snake Island Cattlemen’s Association,’ formed in 1909 and has had a continuous association with the island since then.
“In that time we have noticed many changes, but the most obvious is the increased visitor usage by bushwalkers, kayakers and education groups,” said Ms Bland.
The association members who visited the island with Mr Sykes in May found that the proposal had not yet been run past the local community or even other user groups.
“At the time we were asked to contact the user groups we were aware of and have them contact the Minister with their concerns,” said Ms Bland.
“The response has been tremendous from kayakers, bushwalkers, university campuses and the many riding groups who make the unique horseback crossing to Snake Island.”
Many of these groups voiced concerns about the proposal and as a result a meeting was held with Mr Sykes at Parliament House on October 9.
A number of issues were discussed, including: proposed hunting areas and hunting periods, camping areas, deer numbers, warning signage, why the proposal is up for consideration again when former administrations have not approved Hog Deer hunting, potential value to the community, illegal hunting and compliance, safety of island users, range of rifle shot, a management plan for the island and whether it includes hunting, the kayak season and outdoor education programs.
The stakeholders present at this meeting requested a public meeting in the local area. Mr Sykes will be at the meeting, which is tentatively planned for November 21 at the former ferry terminal at Port Welshpool. The Australian Deer Association will be asked to participate and respond to the issues raised at the earlier meetings.
“We are asking the community to have a look at this proposal and make your thoughts/ objections known to the Minister. We are currently trying to get copies of the proposals out to the general public. The public meeting is proposed to be mid November and feedback from stakeholders to be submitted by November 30,” said Ms Bland.
“It would be a hell of a shame for hunting to be allowed,” said the president of the Snake Island Cattlemen’s Association, Peter Mabilia.
He said that from his observations the numbers of groups visiting the island have increased significantly in recent years.
“There are many recreational kayakers as well as a number of students from university campuses who paddle to the island, using this unique area as a training ground for outdoor education. There are bushwalkers who travel in by boat, recreational boaties who stop off for a wander along the beach and also our members and guests who enjoy the tranquillity and many examples of native flora and wildlife to be seen on the island.”
Snake Island has approximately 87 kilometres of coastline, the vast majority of which is accessible from many launching points from Port Albert to Port Franklin.
“We believe it would be nigh on impossible to inform these people that hunting is an activity being conducted in their vicinity,” warned Mr Mabilia.
Already not all the many visitors to the island use the permit system requested by Parks Victoria, and the cattlemen warn that the numerous access points to land on the island cannot possibly all have warning signs that hunting is in progress.
The calibre of gun used, the range of those firearms over predominately flat terrain and the proximity to a commercial port area and residences are other worries, as is, in the event of a shooting mishap, the restricted access for emergency services, especially in inclement weather.
The cattlemen have further concerns about restricting access to other island users when hunting is in progress and suggest that the appeal of a State Flora and Fauna Reserve which offers tranquillity and the opportunity to observe many examples of “sanctuary animals” to its visitors could be depleted because those animals will become shy if hunted.
“Our association hosts riders from all over Australia and overseas in our tourism venture, and including our members and muster trips can amount to up to 1800 people days per year,” said Ms Bland. “A local commercial kayak operator has quoted a “couple of thousand people days a year” in his business, which includes students. These are significant numbers and no doubt contribute to the local economy through the purchase of food and supplies, dining at the local eateries and utilizing the accommodation available in the area.”
“As a region trying to promote tourism do we want to take the risk of an accidental shooting for the sake of 48 deer a year? That is the number in the proposal for the trial period of two years but what then? Will there be requests for more hunting time and more deer?”
To obtain a copy of the proposal or if you want further information contact Jenny Bland on 0429 832 227 or Peter Mabilia on 0418 595 232.