Dear Beagle Editor, When I tell people about HuntFest they are amazed that such a totally inappropriate event as a celebration of hunting and killing animals should have been given a licence by the Eurobodalla Shire Council to operate on Crown land in the main street of Narooma every June long weekend until 2022. At the first protest meeting a long-time resident of Dalmeny declared angrily: “We did not work for the Sports and Recreation Centre to have it used as a retail outlet for guns!” Huntfest has been permitted by two successive local councils since 2012 to operate until 2022 without there being any real community discussion or debate. No community engagement. The licence was granted in order to satisfy the wishes of the local hunters club, backed by a powerful gun lobby . It has grown over four years from a photographic competition to a full-scale American-style festival of hunting with sale of guns, promotion of overseas and local safaris, a shooting range, and free admission and special activities for children aimed to convince them that gun ownership is desirable and killing animals is fun. The Australian Sporting Shooters Association makes no secret of the fact that it aims to increase gun ownership in the community and to liberalize rules and regulations governing gun ownership , places where recreational hunters can fire their ammunition or shoot their bows and arrows, and the age at which adults can get a gun licence and children can shoot a gun. What sort of message does this send to our kids? Children can get permission to use a gun as young as 12 with parental supervision. Hugh Wirth said: “You can’t on one hand encourage kids to go on shooting sprees and then claim you can manage their respect for all living things”. A festival of killing birds and animals, however much it may be disguised as just another family friendly activity, or given the incongruous title of conservation hunting, can only be harmful to the well-being of the community , to the environment and native animals, and to our well-earned reputation as the Nature Coast. The many people and organizations which oppose recreational hunting as just another ‘family-friendly‘ activity, come from widely different backgrounds , and cannot simply be dismissed as killjoys or members of any particular political party. Opposition within the shire has taken the form of petitions, rallies, and appeals to state and federal politicians for some form of government intervention in the dangerous and undemocratic decisions still being made by the local council. There have also been representations made to council, the Inquiry into Crown lands, the Minister for local Government, the Ombudsman, and NCAT. The RSPCA states unequivocally that it is opposed to recreational hunting, or the act of stalking or pursuing an animal for sport, due to the inherent pain and suffering caused, The only circumstances where recreational hunters could be used for pest animal control would be as part of a government supervised management programme with mandatory competency assessment for shooting accuracy. This doesn’t sound much like HuntFest where hunting is promoted as a fun family activity, and gun ownership is presented as desirable and attainable for anyone and everyone at a certain age who has an easily obtained licence from a gun club. The AMA position statement on behalf of Dr Gannon, president of the association said: “We acknowledge a legitimate role for firearms in regulated sport, agriculture, and for the military and police. But possession of firearms in the community represents a public health issue. It is common sense that any weapon, device or activity that can cause death and injury is a public health issue”. Not to local council it would seem. They demonstrated lack of commonsense and any sense of responsibility for the welfare of their electorate by ignoring the detailed medical release that was sent to them and allowing Huntfest to proceed with its expansion. Furthermore they are the only council in NSW to allow crown land to be leased out for a lengthy period to a group planning to hold a festival of hunting with sale of guns. A disgraceful first for the Nature Coast. More Guns = More Violence according to the Alannah and Madeline Foundation pledged to work against gun proliferation following the deaths of innocent girls Alannah and Madeline Micak and other holiday makers in the Port Arthur siege. HuntFest is also opposed by Coastwatchers and other environmental groups. John Perkins, president of Eurobodalla Coast Watchers, is on record as saying that it is ironic that while most politicians profess concern over rising levels of crime and increased gun violence, here on the South coast council is approving a festival designed to increases the number of guns in the shire. State and Federal politicians still have the responsibility to use the overarching influence of their governments in order to have the undemocratic and dangerous HuntFest licence rescinded. Unfortunately they are reluctant to intervene with decisions made by local councils unless there is an ugly incident such as a child shot with a gun sold by a gun dealer at HuntFest, evidence of demonstrably flawed decision making, or a strong demonstration of public opposition. Attendance at the Animals in the Wild photographic exhibition at the Bodalla Post office on the weekend of HuntFest was a life affirming alternative for people who believe that killing animals is not a reason for celebration, and that wherever possible we should care for, not kill, bush animals and birds, protect our children and our nature coast reputation, and SHOOT WITH A CAMERA NOT WITH A GUN! The Nature Coast; not Narooma Home of HuntFest.
Thank you Susan Cruttenden