Above: Duck-shooting in McDonald Swamp, northwest Victoria; An illegally shot native waterbird at the same location. Images by Noah Hannibalwww.duck.org.au/gallery
|With Victoria's new Red Gum Parks to be officially proclaimed in ceremonies along the river tommorrow, we are very sorry to have to bring you some bad news. As reported in the Sunday Age yesterday, the Brumby Government has secretly promised duck hunters access to at least 40% of the 35,000 hectare Murray River Park despite promising parliament it would do the exact opposite.|
Allowing duck hunting in the Murray River Park will seriously jeopardise the ecological integrity of Victoria's new Red Gum Parks. Across the Murray-Darling Basin, native waterbird populations are in long-term decline due to pressures such as habitat loss and recreational hunting - exactly why the new Red Gum Parks are so important. It defies belief that the Brumby government would undermine its own policy in such a blatant way.
Environment groups around the state cheered when Premier Brumby and his Environment Minister announced the Red Gum Parks in December 2008. A key element of park plan was the 35,000ha Murray River Park, connecting major national parks such as Barmah and Ovens and protecting thousands of critically important wetlands and billabongs along the river.
The detail was tabled in parliament on March 10th, 2009 as the Formal Government Response to the VEAC River Red Gum Forests Investigation. It explicity stated that in the Murray River Park,"hunting and use of firearms" would not be permitted. Again, environment groups applauded the policy, as we did in November when the legislation finally passed.
Meanwhile, it seems the government has been telling duck hunters something else. In a letter sent to hunting lobby groups the Sporting Shooters Association and Field & Game this March, Minister Jennings promised "40 per cent of the length of the Murray River Park will be available to duck hunters upon the proclamation of the park." The letter was obtained by the Victorian National Parks Association under Freedom of Information laws.
Legally, the Minister has the power to permit duck hunting in the Murray River Park but doing so would be a blatant contradiction of what he told parliament and amounts to an extraordinary policy backflip. It will seriously undermine the Brumby government's conservation credentials only five months out from an election.