Based on recent media, the shooting lobby is certainly stepping up the pressure on the Premier to get their recreational bird shooting season approved - it's a pastime in which less than half of one percent of the population partake, causes extreme angst to many others and the majority of Victorians want banned.
Will Daniel Andrews do the right thing by his constituents, particularly those in rural communities, as well as Australia's struggling native wildlife and not allow a duck shooting season to take place?
While we wait for his government's announcement, we felt it important to provide a balance to some claims made by some members of the pro duck shooting lobby.
Re "economic benefit of duck shooting to regional areas"
Some shooters and MPs cite this, in so doing, typically referring to a survey of shooters in 2013, self-professed to hold bias. The survey did not account for the adverse impacts to the non shooting community, people trying to work from home in the area, shift workers needing to sleep during the day in the area nor tourism. Nor did it follow recommended methodology by VAGO (Victorian Auditor Generals Office).
Even still, according to this survey, only $99 million was derived from duck shooters to all Victoria, with the largest percentage (39%) going to Melbourne metropolitan areas while many regional areas received little if any.
East Gippsland - claimed by pro duck shooters to be reliant on duck shooters - derived a mere $2.4 million and 16 jobs. This is being generous as it includes direct and flow on benefits.
Conversely, nature based tourism brings significant benefit to non duck shooting areas. Consider Phillip Island Nature Parks which contributes $498 million annually and 2100 jobs to Victoria, $120 million and 800 jobs just to the local area. Or Winton Wetlands, one area near Benalla which attracts over 60,000 visitors a year despite drought conditions (that's more than twice the number of duck shooters there are for the entire state).
A study by the Australia Institute in 2012 found the majority of holiday makers would avoid duck shooting areas and that most duck shooters would happily switch to an alternate activity which would bring benefit to rural areas.
Re "recreational duck shooting is popular".
Less than half of one percent of the population shoot ducks, a number that is declining (refer graph below). In East Gippsland, only 2.4% of voters shoot ducks. The highest number of voters in any electorate (Lowan) is only 2.48%. The majority of electorates have between 0 and 0.5%.
Professional polls continue to show the majority of the population - city and rural - want it banned.
Activities which are popular with locals and tourists alike- unfortunately hampered by duck shooting in the area - include bushwalking (in the Top 20 - shooting is not) and birdwatching - a $41 billion dollar industry in the US alone.
Re; "recreational duck shooting is sustainable".
Sadly, scientific reports including of long term bird number declines exacerbated by hunting and increasing climate change impacts, suggest otherwise.
It is not possible to monitor or control what gets shot at the thousands of waterways across Victoria where the activity is allowed. The poor understanding of the numbers and species of birds shot, a vital concern on its own, suggests this not at all a "sustainable" pastime.
Whilst it is evident that some MPs have strong links to shooting clubs, we are concerned they appear by many to be out of touch with the majority of their constituents.
But it's Daniel Andrews who will call the shots at this stage.
Given animal welfare is important to 98% of Victorians (Labor's Animal Welfare Action Plan) and duck shooting is known to involve extreme prolonged suffering, we hope the Premier will hold true to his party's commitments to animal welfare.
Given the unprecedented environmental conditions which have resulted in little if any breeding and bird numbers well below long term averages in many cases by order of magnitude, we hope the Premier will hold true to the Labor Government's commitments to protect biodiversity. In this case, our struggling native waterbirds - many species unique to Australia.
Given the lack of understanding of impacts to the growing numbers of families in close proximity, we hope the Premier will not allow further duck shooting at least until robust risk assessments can be carried out.
Even duck shooting maps on the Game Management Authority website are incomplete and offer little means of warning to the public who wish to avoid public waterways where duck shooting is allowed. Who is liable in the case of an accident?
We know you have written thousands of letters to the government asking for a ceasefire.
RVOTDS have also written, asking that as part of the Andrews government's review into duck shooting, proper risk assessments are carried out regarding the social and economic impacts to the non shooting community - that is, the majority.
It's about all Victorians.
Picture Great Egret, Eleanor Dilley.