A controversial hunting festival on the NSW south coast that plans to sell firearms and ammunition to the local community has announced a partnership with the Sporting Shooters' Association of Australia.
The Narooma HuntFest has been billed as Australia's biggest hunting festival with more than 4000 people expected to travel to the coastal town in June, but many community groups are opposed to the festival, fearing the creep of gun culture.
In a statement released on Thursday, South Coast Hunters Club president and HuntFest organiser Dan Field said the Eurobodalla Shire Council's decision to approve the sale of firearms and ammunition was a major boost for the festival.
"The council overwhelmingly voted to allow us to seek permission through NSW Firearms Registry to sell firearms and the majority of the community has been supportive," he said.
"A lot of the local businesses have also come out to help, including hotels and motels who have asked to be listed on our website, so it's great to get that local support."
A spokesman for the Sporting Shooters' Association said the application, which passed by a majority of five to two, was the result of months of hard work and lobbying by organisers of the event.
But the festival has not been welcomed by all members of the community, with groups such as Stop Arms Fairs in Eurobodalla rallying to oppose the festival.
"Another three years of HuntFest with sale of guns added to its existing attractions could attract hunters from far and wide to our beautiful seaside town, changing it from a place of happy holidays days to hunters' headquarters," said a spokeswoman.
"It is hoped Canberrans with emotional and/or financial stakes in this beautiful region will speak out in its defence before it's too late, and our paradise on the south coast becomes hunters' headquarters."
Mr Field said he was surprised at how popular the festival had become with the hunting community, and welcomed the involvement of the association.
"Last year, we were thrown back a bit when we had more than 3000 people through the gates, a thousand more than we expected," he said.
In October, more than 900 residents signed a petition objecting to the festival and calling on the government to revoke the licences granted to the organisers allowing them to sell firearms and maintain a portable air rifle range.
Last year, we were thrown back a bit when we had more than 3000 people through the gates, a thousand more than we expected.HuntFest organiser, Dan Field
But MP Kevin Humphries rejected the petition's demands in December and maintained the licences.
"The terms of the petition state that the petitioners reject the event on grounds including the absence of community consultation and perceived negative social, cultural and economic impacts on the shire," he said.
"I have been advised that a review of the circumstances of the case has found that there are no compelling reasons to rescind the licence for Huntfest."
Mr Field has encouraged those planning to attend the festival on June 6 and 7 to book ahead.
"The sites, especially outside, are nearly sold out and inside booths are selling quickly; so you don't want to miss out," he said.