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Chris McGill - 13 May 2014

Chris McGill made the following comments in Non Agenda Public forum at the Ordinary Council Meeting on 13/05/2014.

"Tourism in Eurobodalla and Huntfest".

My understanding of the mechanism of Council is that Council staff approve or reject proposals having considered the criteria laid down by Council, and that Councillors decide whether the proposal is appropriate for the Eurobodalla Shire.

Council, through Eurobodalla Coast Tourism, has spent a lot of time, money and energy promoting the "Nature Coast" as our tourism drawcard, and for good reason. 85% of the shire is either National Parks or Forestry and our rivers, lakes and coast line are unspoilt and pristine.

I can't see that promoting the "Nature Coast" and the promotion of "Huntfest" are compatible. Huntfest wants to educate our children in the pursuit of hunting with guns, archery and knives to kill and mame animals, they want to foster a gun culture in the Eurobodalla Shire.

Narooma has a lot of well organised events to attract visitors: - The Oyster Festival, The Blues Festivals, fishing tournaments, the wooden boat festival, sporting events; none of these impact to any significant degree on the rest of the community.

But Huntfest is for hunters and their sport excludes many other pursuits. Should they gain access to our National Parks and Forests?  They will exclude bushwalkers, cyclists, birdwatchers, National Park workers and campers on the days they are hunting.

Last year, driving home from Narooma, I was confronted by a new sigh in Bodalla State Forest informing me that hunting was proposed within. It was a shock and left an uneasy feeling, a feeling that was shared by others living in my area and others visiting my area.

Hunters already have an outlet for their interest, indeed some property owners out west invite them in to help with control of pigs and goats and other feral animals that have built up in numbers, I don't have an issue with this, but I don't buy the "feral control" argument for the Eurobodalla. Our feral pests in the bush are cats and foxes and the potential of a hunter coming upon a cat and shooting it, in the bush surrounding Narooma, I think highly unlikely. There are feral deer in our bush – escapees from deer farms, but in my 30 years of living in the bush I have not seen them build up in numbers and sightings are very rare.

Huntfest will bring in like-minded people to the event but will also dissuade our regular visitors who come for the beauty of the area and what it has to offer. In any business it is good to pursue new trade but not at the expense of your existing clientele base.

Some years ago the residents of Punkalla founded the Narooma and Tilba Residents Action Group in response to the proposed shooting range in our area. We devoted a lot of time, raised money, met with Councillors and Politicians, travelling to Sydney and Canberra and were successful in our campaign. The group that is behind Huntfest is the same group that proposed the shooting range. For 18 months our daily lives were disrupted by the desires of a small group to further their sport at the total disregard of the local residents. There are also 4 holiday accommodation businesses that were effected. These businesses of which I have one, promote an experience with nature, the peace and quiet of the bush, a place to relax and recoup for city weary folk. My visitors' book attests to the success of this promotion.

With the growing momentum of Huntfest – the first year was purely educational and a photographic display, now they will have guns on display and participation in archery; my concern is there will be a push for the shooting range to get back on the agenda and Eurobodalla's National Parks and Forests to be opened up to them.

This will directly affect the residents of the Punkalla area, these 4 businesses and the established tourist trade of the Eurobodalla.

Thank you for listening.

Chris Magill

 

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