Field & Game Australia

Many gains, many gaps

In September FGA hosted its 14th annual Politicians Shoot, the first to be held at our Willowmavin ground near Kilmore. This ground, one of the closest to Melbourne, was purchased by FGA with major funding from the Victorian Government’s Shooting Sports Facilities Program.

It was a wonderful opportunity for local, State and Federal politicians to see what a great asset this shooting ground is and the potential it holds. Perhaps not surprisingly, the annual trophy was again won by the team of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, but they were given a good challenge by the Nationals.

The Shooting Sports grant funding has brought a very welcome infusion of funds into clay target clubs and, as I go around our FGA Branches, I am seeing long used and run down facilities being replaced with new clubhouses, equipment storage sheds, disabled access, toilets and equipment.

Good facilities encourage participation in sports, and clay target shooting is no exception. Breakdowns due to old equipment and the associated delays, barely adequate clubhouses and difficult access put many people off and we are now seeing the results of the Government funding in increased participation and new faces.

It is rare for government funds to be made available for the non-Olympic shooting sports, and recreational shooting has benefited by many millions of dollars from an initiative that I am proud to have been a part of since its inception many years ago, when we pushed the case for funding for a state shooting centre.

That idea stalled, but the State Government redirected the $12.5 million they had allocated to it, to be available as the Shooting Sports Fund.

There has been a lot of media coverage over the Federal Government trying to get agreement from the states over reclassification of the Adler shotgun. In the end the states could not agree and no change has been made. This was a very important issue, but not because of five shots or seven! The real issue was avoiding the precedent of moving a lever action gun to a fairly highly restricted category (C or even D). There are already thousands of lever action shotguns owned by holders of an “A” licence and many thousands of lever action centre fire rifles are owned by people with a “B” licence. Once the case is agreed for moving a seven shot Adler shotgun to C or D, what happens to all the other lever actions? This was the problem.

Lever action guns, rifles and shotguns have been in “A” and “B” categories for many years without problems. As we always question in these instances, “if there is not a problem, then why make changes?”

The rain this year has been consistent and widespread and the ducks are loving it! We are seeing breeding everywhere and as we know from long experience, abundant water means abundant ducks. The 2017 season will be huge and we all hope that the government will take the opportunity to make an announcement on the 2017 season as soon as possible, certainly before the end of the year.

However, I note with concern that we are still yet to see the Game Management Authority’s Sustainable Hunting Action Plan agreed to and signed off by the government. This is now many months overdue and gives us great cause for concern. Just as the reasons for it being agreed in Council were strong, the assumptions one makes for it not having been signed off are very concerning to hunters.

Similarly, we are very concerned about the failure to appoint a new Chair of the GMA since the resignation of Roger Hallam.

These two issues make it hard to believe that the government is taking hunters’ interests seriously especially when taken alongside Minister Jaala Pulford’s statement below on behalf of the government, agreeing to the amendment to support dissolving the Emergency Closures Advisery Committee:-

Jaala Pulford: ‘Ministers will also receive advice from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) pertinent to the environmental impacts of seasonal conditions. In forming this advice DELWP will continue to meaningfully consult with external experts, including Birdlife Australia as the recognised society of ornithologists, and of course the government will rely on the advice of the Game Management Authority and continue to engage with the many organisations that have strong views on this issue.’

It is the second part of this statement that creates cause for concern as the “many organisations” the Ministers have previously sought opinions from are fundamentally opposed to a Duck Season.

Duck Seasons are legislated in both duration and bag limits in Victoria. These should only be reviewed in exceptional circumstances and by definition, exceptions do not occur every year.

This is my last column as Chairman of FGA. After five years I have decided it is time for me to step down and give someone else a go. Also, I’m looking forward to having the time to do a lot more hunting and competitive shooting. FGA is now a complex organisation, facing many challenges and opportunities and the role of Chairman requires a considerable commitment in both time and effort.

Rob Treble has put up his hand to take over and I wish him all the best in the role. Subject to being reelected to the Board I will stay on to help Rob as he steps into the Chairmanship, which has been a practice in FGA for some time now. I think this says a lot for the cohesiveness of the Board and the strong working relationship Board members enjoy.

I am proud of the work that the Board has achieved in steering the organisation through the various challenges and changes we’ve implemented to address them. Our accomplishments have been significant and I give my sincere thanks to my fellow Board members, to our wonderful and dedicated staff and to all our members for their support and tireless efforts to constantly achieve the aims of FGA.

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