SNAKE Island Cattlemen’s Association continues to take the lead in promoting community discussion regarding the hunting of hog deer on Snake Island.
This two-year State Government trial, which is to commence in February operating under a ballot system, was announced on August 22 by Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio.
Paul Hamlett – a member of the Snake Island Cattlemen’s Association (SICA) is very pleased to have seen some really informative discussions taking place on SICA’s facebook page and encourages people to join in by going straight to the page at snakeislandcattlemen or by following the links from SICA’s website at www.snakeisland.com.au. Mr Hamlett urges those who feel inclined to also sign the online partition.
“We are echoing the sentiments shared by other groups and individuals who regularly visit Snake Island. It may not be well known that Snake Island supports a range of tourist activities, such bushwalking, kayak and camping tours,” said Mr Hamlett.
“A number of education institutions such as Chisholm Institute, Monash and Federation Universities also use the island as part of their training programs and learning activities. All these activities coexist with each other and the SICA. In fact, many of these groups regularly use the huts, particularly if the weather turns bad.
“Of course there are also many individuals who visit the Island for its wildlife, beauty and relative isolation, the exact number of these visitors is difficult to quantify.
“The issue for all the current users of Snake Island is that the proposed hunting will adversely impact on all proposed activities as hunting on the island will make it unsafe for anyone on the island except for the hunters. The local community of Port Welshpool shares this concern,” Mr Hamlett said.
User group comments include that of Bushwalking Victoria, an organisation whose key concerns include: (1) – The lack of consultation with all stakeholders prior to the decision being announced; (2) – Ongoing hunting on Snake Island by recreational shooters, with the island becoming a defacto reserve for shooters; and (3) – The risks and impacts that shooting will have on the safe enjoyment of bushwalking on the island.
Malcolm Cowell, who operates Wilsons Prom Sea Kayaks has bookings to run kayaking and camping for two schools in early March 2017 and still hasn’t been advised that hunting will be occurring that period.
“I’m concerned my business will not be viable if the hunting goes ahead,” Mr Cowell said.
“I’ve been bringing outdoor education groups to Corner Inlet, the Nooramunga Marine Reserve and Snake Island for more than twenty years,” said Dr Brian Wattchow, a senior lecturer at Federation University.
“It is a superb natural environment with an important cultural heritage, making it ideal for sea kayaking, bushwalking and environmental education. It is vitally important that access be maintained to areas like this for both public recreation and educational purposes,” Dr Wattchow said.
Monash University runs leadership courses for pre-service teachers, and have in the past taken international students to Snake Island to conduct research.
“It has been, and continues to be, one of our key programming destinations, given the environmental uniqueness, local community engagement and learning opportunities through use of open and closed coast,” said Lecturer Beau Miles.
“We have conducted anywhere between 200 to 500 fieldwork days each year (per person, per day), on the Nooramunga islands for over 10 years,” Mr Miles added.
The International Sea Kayaking Educators Symposium (ISKES), convened by Beau Miles and Monash University, is set to be staged at Nooramunga in 2018, attracting 50 to 100 delegates from 15 to 20 countries.
“Access to Snake Island is an integral part of our teaching program,” said Mr Miles.
“Brian Mattingley, President of the Port Welshpool Working Group and also an avid hunter (as a younger man) and fisherman, is very concerned about the safety of the Port Welshpool residents and fishermen,” said Mr Hamlett.
“He knows accidents can happen with high powered firearms. He also questioned the economic value to local community compared to other tourism activities. Brian along with many of his Group were at the last community meeting and he clearly remembers the almost unanimous local opposition to the application to hunt on Snake Island and he can’t understand why the decision to allow hunting could be made without any community consultation this time.
“Putting safety issues to one side for a moment, it’s the unintended consequences of hunting that are also of concern for SICA and the local community. We’re not suggesting hunters would deliberately target birds or native animals but the reality is that the noise of rifle shots and other animals taking fright will create unintended disturbances.
“Worst case is that other animals may injure themselves as they take flight and certainly their habits will change and they will become shy of all people.
“However, perhaps the most regionally significant unintended consequence will be the damage to the local tourism brand. South Gippsland is known around the world because of Wilsons Promontory National Park and the Nooramunga Marine and Coastal Park is an important part of the unique and unspoiled environment.
“Tourism is a very important part of Victoria’s economy and statewide provides over 210,000 jobs and is worth $21.7 billion. Unfortunately, the latest information from Tourism Victoria shows Gippsland’s share of the pie to be shrinking; down around an average of -4.1 per cent over the past five years and a massive -18.1 per cent last year.
“Tourism Victoria, through its ‘Wander Victoria’ campaign hopes to reverse the trend and encourage Melburnians to take short breaks and come and enjoy nature. In fact all the key messages in the campaign highlight nature, outdoor activities, rest and relaxation. Having Snake Island, an important tourist destination in its own right, closed every second week during the peak tourist season due to hunting will further damage the regions tourism potential and the local economy.
“As has been discussed previously, the restoration of Long Jetty at Port Welshpool has the potential to kick-start an eco-tourism boom for the region. But not if operators can only operate every second week through the peak tourist season.
“Recreational shooters are fortunate to have many alternate opportunities to hunt hog deer in this region, with balloted hunting on both Boole Poole and Blonde Bay State Game Reserves, their privately owned game reserve on Sunday Island and an open season for hog deer on private and crown land for the month of April each year.
Mr Hamlett pointed out that, according to the Game Management Authority website (www.gma.vic.gov.au), deer hunters already have access to eight million hectares of Victorian state-owned and controlled land upon which to participate in game hunting and that this equates to 222 hectares per hunter.
“It is difficult to understand why they need to hunt on Snake Island given the adverse impacts on other existing (and future) users and in the face of the community safety concerns.
“These are important issues and all sectors of the community deserve to have their say. I urge Minister D’Ambrosio to meet with the affected groups and listen to our concerns,” Mr Hamlett said