Today marks one week since recreational bird shooting was allowed to commence at our stunning public waterways around Victoria - some recognised internationally for environmental significance, home to native birds unique to our country and the oldest culture on earth.
With the easing of restrictions last week, it was an ideal time for Victorians to get out and enjoy our world class natural environment.
But unmonitored shotgun wielding folk in cammo gear ran amok in many of these areas, striking fear in residents and rendering otherwise beautiful public waterways out of bounds for the public to be able to enjoy.
Year after year, duck shooters’ flouting of laws makes headlines. The flouting is not only a risk to our dwindling populations of native waterbirds but Victorians’ safety.
And it appears to be getting worse.
Despite reports of there being fewer shooters than ever this year, their non-compliance to rules has been rife.
Residents reported gunfire piercing the skies nearly an hour earlier than the legal start time in more than one location across the state both days of the weekend.
Illicit drug use and breaches of social distancing rules by shooters at public waterways were also reported by animal rescue groups.
Some fed-up regional residents were proactive with calls to police and with their own cameras.
One shooter was asked to move on from an area which according to government hunting maps he shouldn't be shooting at. Another was photographed with his gun set to shoot across a river towards a public road.
Other rural residents understandably too scared to leave their homes amongst the shooting, made reports of non-compliance online to Game Management Authority (GMA), only to receive a request for more information two days later.
Many question the ability or will of taxpayer funded GMA - which is led by duck shooters - to regulate the activity.
In response to a recent freedom of information request by RVOTDS to GMA, the regulator have admitted they hold no documents concerning the whereabouts of all the public waterways where duck shooting is allowed. How can they possibly hope to regulate?
With our native waterbird numbers down by up to 90% since the 1980's and no safety/social or economic impact studies done about the impacts of shooting to the public let alone families living within 30 metres of it, this season proceeding was never ok.
The extra risk of COVID -19 to our vulnerable rural communities, the evidence of shooters’ serious wrongdoing and the admission by GMA they have no record of all the areas where duck shooting can occur, renders its continuance irresponsible.
Will the Premier now finally ban duck shooting and keep Victorians safe?
There's a better way for Victoria's waterways.
Armed men at dawn, Laanecoorie, Victoria. Picture India Armstrong.