“WE ARE over the moon,” said the president of the Snake Island Cattlemen’s Association, Peter Mabilia, about the state government’s announcement that it will not proceed with balloted hunting of hog deer on Snake Island in Corner Inlet.
“This decision is a victory for the community, who have given the Cattlemen’s Association tremendous support with this issue.”
As he made the announcement late last week, the Minister for Agriculture and Food Security, Peter Walsh, acknowledged the local community’s strong opposition to the proposed hunt on the grounds of public safety and because hunting would be a deterrent to visitors to the area.
He said it was for this reason that the proposal from the Victorian Hunting Advisory Committee to allow a balloted hunt of hog deer on the island during June and July this year – using four groups of six shooters – would not go ahead.
“I asked my Parliamentary Secretary for Primary Industries Bill Sykes to investigate the legitimacy of the proposal and he found a large percentage of the local community, recreational island users and cattle grazers were strongly against the idea,” Mr Walsh said.
“At a public meeting in Welshpool to discuss the proposal, a significantly high proportion of attendees were against hunting on the island. They felt it would deter visitors and risk public safety.
“While the Victorian Coalition Government recognises the contribution licensed hunters make to our state’s economy, in this instance the impact on local tourism and recreational activities would have been too great.
“Tourism plays a huge role in supporting the economy of the area, with Snake Island attracting thousands of kayakers, horse riders and recreational fishers each year.
“It is important we do not risk what is a significant industry, already bringing benefit to a regional community, by allowing hunting on the island.”
Mr Mabilia said the overwhelming response from everyone who had been active in the campaign to keep hunting off the island was that ‘commonsense has prevailed’.
He said it was the third unsuccessful attempt by hunting organisations to gain access to Snake Island’s hog deer population and he wished to thank everyone who participated in the campaign to defeat the proposal, reserving special praise for the hardworking secretary of the Snake Island Cattlemen’s Association, Jenny Bland.
“We believe it’s been a huge win, driven by the passion and determination of the local Gippsland community,” said Mr Mabilia.
Not everyone is happy with the decision, however.
The Hunting and Conservation Manager of the Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia (Victoria), Colin Wood, said that the outcome was very disappointing.
“There certainly was scope to allow hunters to conduct the hunting trial on the island without any effective interruption or legitimate cause for concern from other users. This decision is something of a slight on the multi-use principles of Public Lands. We seriously question the notion that this hunting proposal would have negatively impacted local tourism. Indeed, we suggest there would have been a modest increase in tourism, had the trial hunt proceeded.”
Mr Wood added: “This particular island (Snake Island) contains approximately one quarter of the entire Hog Deer here in Victoria; it seems to us that the licence fee our hunters pay annually should give them access to that herd.”
The state president of the Australian Deer Association, Colin Brumley, also expressed extreme disappointment – but not surprise – with the decision.
“ADA refutes the government’s position that tightly controlled balloted hunting for hog deer would place at risk the tourism businesses of the Snake Island Cattlemen’s Association (SICA) and deter other public land uses such as bushwalkers and sea kayakers,” he said. “Hunting already co-exists with these groups in Corner Inlet and has done do for over fifty years with no discernible risk or detriment to tourism businesses.”
He said that legal hog deer hunting is conducted “in areas adjacent to Snake Island such as Gellion’s Run near Port Albert, Jack Smith Lake State Game Reserve, Para Park – a privately owned and run land wildlife co-operative dedicated to hog deer hunting on Sunday Island – and numerous private land holdings”.
“It is well known that there is a significant amount of illegal hunting for hog deer conducted on Snake Island. Our proposal to introduce balloted hunting includes clear and effective measures to address this uncontrolled poaching which poses a genuine threat to all users of the island. The only winners in this decision are the criminals who will continue to hunt on Snake Island illegally.”
Mr Brumley added: “A trial of balloted hog deer hunting on Snake Island will prove it to be safe, sustainable and beneficial for the entire community. ADA remains committed to working with government, SICA and the Corner Inlet community to ensure that a legal, safe and equitable opportunity can be developed to provide access to the Snake Island hog deer population for Victoria’s 23,500 licensed deer hunters.”