IN securing the numbers for its power privatisation plans, the state government agreed to a Shooters and Fishers Party proposal to allow sporting shooters into national parks, state conservation areas and nature reserves.
Shooting has been allowed in state forests since 2002, when the previous Labor government introduced the Game and Feral Animal Control Act.
The O’Farrell government amended this law, immediately allowing ‘‘volunteer pest control’’ in 79 parks and reserves but setting aside another 48 that ‘‘cannot be declared as public hunting land’’.
That leaves another 672 parks and reserves around NSW where hunting is not banned, but not yet open for the sort of controversial culling programs envisaged by the shooters’ party and the NSW Game Council.
In an attempt to keep guns out of several popular parks in his region, Cessnock Greens councillor James Ryan wants Werakata National Park, Werakata State Conservation Area and Sugarloaf State Conservation Area to be added to the list of 48 parks in which shooting is banned.
Sugarloaf, of course, is one of the Hunter’s most popular and iconic picnic spots, while the Werakata reserves run up to residential areas in Abernethy, Kitchener and Abermain.
As a Green, Cr Ryan is openly opposed to the shooting laws but the issue he raises is as much about public safety and commonsense as it is about ideology.
It could be – although many people would disagree – that amateur shooters have a legitimate role to play in the control of feral animals.
But no rational person would agree to shooting near picnic areas or near houses.
Cessnock council should back Cr Ryan’s call. Environment Minister Robyn Parker, who in Premier O’Farrell’s words has ‘‘ultimate control over where, when and how volunteer pest shooting takes place’’, should heed it.
As things stand, no one is suggesting that picnickers at Sugarloaf are in danger of being shot. But listening to local councils, and adding their nominations to the ‘‘no shooting’’ list, would be a good way of ensuring there is absolutely no confusion about the issue.
AFTER years of unbridled enthusiasm, sentiment about Australia’s ‘‘once in a century’’ mining boom is starting to turn.
Investment analysts point to cooling demand from China, at least partly driven by falling demand from Europe and the United States, as reasons for suggesting the commodity boom may have already come to an end.
Coal and iron ore prices have fallen in recent months and while they are well above their historic levels, so are the costs of production. Profit margins have narrowed and talk of job cuts is starting to work its way across the Hunter’s coalmines. Hopefully, the crunch, if it comes, will be steady and relatively manageable. Regardless of whether the boom is truly ‘‘over’’, there is little doubt that growth is slowing and sentiment turning. Sadly, the fear of a downturn is often self-fulfilling.