PARK WATCH Article March 2024 |

Parks and Nature Campaigner, Jordan Crook, says 29 January 2024 will go down as a very bad day for wildlife and wetlands across Victoria

Despite a record number of public submissions against it, the Allan Government is pushing ahead with the controversial blood sport to continue duck and quail shooting across Victoria.

The inquiry into Victoria’s recreational native bird hunting arrangements focussed on multiple issues. This included the impacts of native bird shooting on ecological and Indigenous cultural heritage sites, safety concerns by public land users, the animal welfare implications of shooting wildlife out of the sky, and poor compliance and enforcement operations by the Game Management Authority.

The recommendations of the inquiry were broad and included an end to the recreational shooting of native birds. An odd inclusion was a recommendation to change the name of State Game Reserves to ‘Outdoor Recreation Reserves’, a currently non-existent land tenure in Victoria.

It is unclear if an Outdoor Recreation Reserve would see a reduction in areas managed for conservation. It is important to note that while state game reserves and other reserves (such as streamside, geological, geomorphological, bushland and wildlife and natural features reserves) allow duck and quail shooting, nature conservation is their main objective (while also supporting passive recreation).

In their 29 January media release, the government committed to a series of ‘common-sense’ (but opaque) changes:

  • Improving hunters’ knowledge and skill with mandatory training and education.
  • Stricter compliance levels, including further penalties for hunters breaking the rules.
  • Banning the use of lead shot for quail hunting.
  • Implementing the Waterfowl Wounding Reduction Action Plan.
  • Greater recognition of Traditional Owners’ knowledge of hunting and land management.

These minor adjustments will still see shooting occur across our shrinking wetlands and in the habitat of Critically Endangered wildlife such as Plains Wanderers and Southern Brolgas.

Data from 2022 shows just 0.42 per cent of Victorians partake in native bird shooting. Native bird shooting for recreation has been banned across most of Australia: WA in 1990, NSW in 1995 and Queensland in 2005.

The numbers of ducks killed and wounded will continue to be an animal welfare issue that is truly intolerable in this day and age.

What a wasted opportunity by the Allan Government to shift its relationship with native wildlife to one that recognises their inherent beauty and integral role in a healthy web of life.

Despite this knock back, I’m convinced that one day soon our elected leaders will see wildlife not as moving targets, but as living examples of evolutionary changes made in conjunction with the state’s ecosystems and conditions.