The Premier, Barry O’Farrell.THE Premier, Barry O’Farrell, has rushed to stem the fallout from revelations that the Office of Environment and Heritage was developing plans to allow hunters to use silencers while shooting feral animals in national parks by immediately ruling it out.
The proposal, contained in a leaked draft risk assessment report, argues that the use of silencers would minimise the disturbance raised by hunting with firearms to other park users such as bushwalkers, picnickers and bird watchers.
However, it would require a significant loosening of the prohibition on the use of silencers in NSW, which is designed to prevent them falling into criminal hands.
The revelation drew strong opposition from the Police Minister, Mike Gallacher, who was not consulted about the plan and said he did not want existing restrictions. The National Parks Association of NSW said it would be a safety risk as park users would not be aware when hunters were nearby.
On Tuesday morning, Mr O’Farrell issued a brief statement ruling out the proposal.
“There will be no change to the regulation of silencers to allow for the operation of pest eradication measures in national parks,” he said.
The Environment Minister, Robyn Parker, is overseeing preparation of the assessment by the Office of Environment and Heritage before declaring 77 national parks and reserves open for amateur hunting of feral animals from May.
The draft risk assessment, dated this month, raises concerns that the “passive or tranquil recreation” sought by bushwalkers, picnickers and bird watchers in national parks would be shattered by hunters discharging their firearms nearby.
It classifies the risk as “possible but low” and says the solution is to allow hunters to use silencers to muffle the sound.
The Game Council NSW, which issues hunting licences, has been pushing for hunters to be allowed to use silencers and in 2011 commissioned a report on the impediments to the change.
Mr Gallacher said on Monday that he had not been consulted. “I don’t believe there should be an expansion of the current regime,” he said.
The opposition environment spokesman, Luke Foley, said the Game Council had “pulled the wool” over the eyes of the Office of Environment and Heritage. “OEH management are seemingly unaware that … this has been on the wish-list of the Game Council for some time,” he said.