Allan Baxter - 24 June 2014
Allan Baxter made the following comments in Non Agenda Public forum at the Ordinary Council Meeting on 24 June 2014.
Huntfest in the Future
Well, this year's HuntFest is over and has been claimed by the organisers to have been a resounding success. They claim to have attracted over 2300 paying adults and that over 80% of the event-goers were from out of area. This means there would have been about 400 locals attending.
Commencing on the long weekend, the SAFE group whose primary aim is to stop arms fairs in the Eurobodalla has been seeking signatures on a petition opposing HuntFest and arms fairs. In the two weeks or so since then we have obtained almost 400 signatures, all Eurobodalla residents, and the number is rising steadily. What is also significant is that many people when finding out about it enthusiastically offer to sign before being asked. Our conviction, based on talking to people in the street and outside shops, is that a clear majority of the residents of the shire are opposed to HuntFest and particularly, the display and sale of guns in Narooma.
We are also concerned about the prominence at HuntFest of the representatives of the Shooters and Fishers Party. The Party in New South Wales has among its stated policies the abolition of ethics classes in NSW public schools and the recognition of shooting as an appropriate cultural activity and sport in our public schools. It is also their oft-stated aim to weaken the current gun laws in New South Wales. We can only conclude from their close association with HuntFest that these policies are endorsed by the South Coast Hunters Club.
The HuntFest organisers have publicly stated that they expect HuntFest to grow about 25% each year, and next year, for example, to have a much larger outdoor exhibiting area. If the projections are anywhere near accurate the event would, in 2017, attract 4500 people, almost twice the population of Narooma! Obviously, they would have to greatly increase its area of operation and it would be far too large for the Narooma Sports and Leisure Centre. It seems inevitably therefore that the South Coast Hunters Club will be seeking from Council approval for extensions and variations to their event licence to accommodate this growth.
If and when this happens we hope that Council will take into account the increasing evidence that the majority of Eurobodalla residents oppose HuntFest and its arms fair and will consider any applications for continuing and extending HuntFest under the criteria stated in the Events Policy adopted in September 2013. Amount these criteria is the requirement that appropriate events should build strong communities, not divide them; and should enhance the Shire's reputation as a tourism, leisure and event destination known for its natural beauty and not as a place that celebrates the killing of animals for pleasure. The aims in the Events Policy are admirable; will they be observed in practice?
We hope that Council now realises that HuntFest and its Arms Fair in Narooma is a controversial and divisive issue; if members are in any doubt then Council surely must arrange for an independent survey of residents to settle the matter once and for all.
A response from Council is not required.