- THE SAFETY SITUATION -
It’s perplexing that a progressive state like Victoria, which prides itself on keeping Victorians safe, allows unmonitored shooting at thousands of public waterways – so many that authorities have been unable to even estimate their number, let alone signpost them. Worse, no public consultation has taken place, no risk assessments, not even desk top studies to determine the impacts of shooting to nearby families, despite one in four Victorians now living in regional areas and more Melburnians than ever, interested in visiting our regional natural assets.
The safety concern was highlighted only recently when two women walking by a lake in New Zealand were shot by duck shooters.
“One was struck by shotgun pellets in the right leg and the other was hit in the right breast and collarbone area, Judge Flatley said. The pair received moderate injuries. The victims called out and lay on the ground to avoid being shot again.” (NZ Herald October 2021)
In NSW, (where recreational bird shooting seasons were banned due to cruelty, same as in WA and QLD), hunters of any kind must register in advance, alerting authorities of where they will be, when, and with what weapons. This is after annual risk assessments are conducted which consider physical and psychological impacts on others.
One Victorian community’s pleas for peace and safety have featured in the news in recent weeks (see some of the articles at the end of this newsletter). A petition to have their waterways closed to shooting and instead turned into sanctuaries to protect threatened species, attracted 483 signatures, mostly local. Conversely, a petition to have duck shooting remain, achieved 21 signatures, 11 said to be local.
Community sentiment is clear.
Two wetlands in Mildura were closed to shooting in 2019 for safety reasons – without 483 signatures.
All eyes are now on the water manager Goulburn Murray Water – who can decide what activities take place on their storages – and Maree Edwards MP to represent her constituents, and both relevant Ministers. Will they have the courage to remove this area from duck shooters’ expansive list of shoot areas? (Less than half of one percent of the population shoot ducks) .
A link to a short video and 26 pages of community’s comments can be seen here.
Money Matters – Income and Expenses – basic accounting
A question of Income
Hunt clubs (and some MPs apparently beholden to them) often quote total alleged economic benefits from all types of hunting, sometimes even throwing clay targets into the mix, to boost the tally. Perhaps it’s because if they separate out duck shooting, the numbers fade to oblivion.
According to a recent Parliamentary Budget Office report, duck shooting was estimated to only contribute $4m- $10m to the state. Note, this is not a net figure, for no cost-benefit analysis has ever been done to account for the costs of duck shooting, such as lost tourism, lost ability to work from home or for shift workers to sleep, costs of law enforcement, compliance monitoring, helicopter duck counts, and yet more hunter expenditure surveys. Independent economists say the real impact of duck shooting is likely to be negative.
Conversely, tourism typically contributes more to Australia’s economy than agriculture, forestry, fishing, IT & media combined (Tourism Satellite Account), with nature-based tourism the fastest growing component (Tourism and Transport Forum).
In 2019/20, tourism was worth $23 billion just to Victoria and employed 230,000 people. Year ending March 2020, 17.6 million domestic tourists engaged in at least one nature-based activity in Victoria (up 75% in five years). Most of them – 12.5 million – did so in our regions, spending $3.5 billion in the process (up 85% in five years). Nature-based tourism is defined as visits to national parks, botanic gardens, wildlife parks, whale watching, bushwalking, birdwatching, scuba diving and snorkelling. (Tourism Research Australia)
In the first year birdwatching tourist data was collated in Australia, over 1.4 million tourists birdwatched in our country and spent $2.88 billion. More domestic overnight tourists birdwatched than visited the Great Barrier Reef and more international tourists birdwatched than fished. (TRA National Visitor Surveys year ending December 2019).
As our rural towns are rich in wetlands which are home to birdlife found nowhere else in the world, our opportunity is clear. All we need do is stop bird shooting as unsurprisingly, studies show shooting deters tourism.
Despite questionable “benefit” from bird shooting, expenses covered by unwitting taxpayers to support it are significant, for example:
More chopper flights
A second helicopter duck count took place recently thanks to taxpayers, arguably unnecessarily, given robust long term data sets already exist. We are confident that if these datasets showed an overabundance of ducks, there would be no choppers. Alas, the long-term severe decline of duck populations is unambiguous and perhaps why shooters are looking elsewhere – at taxpayers’ expense – for comfort.
We hope the counters will be able to count more than 16 Pink-eared Ducks this time before condemning them to gunfire, similarly, to distinguish Grey teal from Chestnut teal, and to count birds on more than around 4 percent of the myriad of waterways where shooting can occur in our state. (This said, few farmers enjoy having their animals spooked by low flying choppers.)
Another new model imported from America: AHM (Adaptive Harvest Model)
RVOTDS inc appreciated the opportunity recently to participate in the stakeholder discussion about the AHM – a new model of predicting “sustainability” imported from America where climate and species are very different. See our submission here.
The costs to taxpayers of this model’s deployment, and reasons why taxpayers are having to fund justification of a recreational choice for less than half of one percent of the population are unknown.
There are 6.5 million other Victorians whose welfare and hobbies seem largely ignored by government.
Voters will not be fooled by those who wish to hide behind a new “model” to defend the unpopular, uneconomic and cruel practice of duck shooting. We note the current proposal is aimed at “enhancing confidence in regulatory performance in setting arrangements for the annual duck hunting season”.
Perhaps it’s time the public, not just hunters were listened to.
If an independent poll was taken, asking voters whether millions of taxpayer dollars and top scientific minds should be devoted to the hobby of 12,000 men*, or to the protection of vulnerable wildlife, how do you think they would answer?
*Pre-covid Victoria had around 12,000 duck shooters. 98 percent are male (GMA data).
In the news this month:
Our front page swan Advt in Tarrangower Times today!
Like what we do? Please help us do more! As a not for profit group of volunteers we greatly appreciate community support. On behalf of our beautiful waterbirds who cannot speak for themselves and the communities who love being home to them, thank you! Go to www.regionalvictoriansOTDS.com/take-action