The introduction of hunting in NSW national parks has been postponed until at least mid-year following allegations of illegal activity by employees of the Game Council NSW, the organisation which was to have overseen the program.
NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell has ordered a review of the governance of the Game Council , which regulates hunting in the state.
Last year O’Farrell announced 77 national parks and reserves would be opened for amateur hunting of feral animals under a deal with the Shooters and Fishers Party.
The contentious program was due to begin in March, but a risk assessment process had delayed its start date until May.
O’Farrell said hunting will not commence before the completion of the review, which is due on May 31.
The review was prompted by media reports of an investigation in to alleged illegal hunting by two employees of the Game Council on a property in regional NSW.
Game Council employees Andy Mallen and Greg McFarland were suspended by Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, after being investigated by police over claims they strayed on to private property in a council vehicle and killed a goat.
Mallen was cleared of the allegations after supplying proof that he was in Sydney at the time of the incident.
McFarland, the Game Council’s one time acting chief executive and communications manager, remains the subject of police investigations.
The Premier told Parliament that he received a report about illegal activity by one Game Council employee as well as a volunteer.
He added that the report identified potential breaches of Game Council policies which raise questions about the organisation’s governance procedures.
Senior public servant Steve Dunn, will now review the Game Council’s governance in order to ensure they are undertaking an appropriate role under the Game and Feral Animal Control Act.
The Game Council released a statement saying it welcomes the Premier’s announcement.
“The Game Council will co-operate with all aspects of Mr Dunn’s review,” a spokesperson said.
“The Council looks forward to an outcome that further enhances its services and ability to meet its statutory obligations while ensuring ongoing public confidence in the regulatory process.
“The Game Council has already taken a series of steps to independently evaluate its internal policies and processes. This work will assist the review announced by the Premier today.”
The spokesperson added that the review is timely as the Game and Feral Animal Control Act will also be the subject of a statutory review process.
Invasive Species Council (ISC) policy officer Carol Booth, also welcomes the review, and said she hopes it will lead to a “fundamental rethink” about the Game Council.
“Our view is that the millions of dollars of public funding going to the Game Council should be spent instead on genuine control programs that achieve conservation outcomes,” she said.
Booth and the ISC argue there is a vast difference between feral animal control and recreational hunting, and that some animals have such a high breeding rate and rapid replacement of those killed that to make a difference, over half the population must be killed.
The ISC has also expressed concern about maverick hunters relocating feral animals and maintaining stocks of invasive species they find desirable to hunt.