Amateur hunters will be allowed back into about 200 state forests from next month after the NSW government announced it would restart the controversial program with extra safety measures, including mandatory GPS devices.
Hunting in state forests has been suspended since last July when the government received a damning report on the management of its regulator, the Game Council of NSW.
The agency was abolished and its functions taken over by the Department of Primary Industries.
At the time Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson said hunting would not resume until a new risk assessment by the Forestry Corporation was carried out.
On Friday, acting Primary Industries Minister Andrew Stoner said 358 state forests had been redeclared for hunting.
Mr Stoner said 200 would initially be reopened for hunting from February 3, but new safety protocols would apply.
They include a requirement that hunters carry "a GPS-enabled device" that contains hunting and exclusion map data provided by the Department of Primary Industries.
The new risk assessment said this recommendation was "the most significant outcome".
A one-day delay has been introduced between when a hunt is booked online and when hunting is allowed to take place. This is designed to allow the Forestry Corporation to reschedule or modify work being carried out.
Hunters will also need to complete two online "education modules" covering navigation skills and the rules for hunting in state forests.
Mr Stoner described them as "important new safety protocols".
However Greens MP David Shoebridge criticised the decision to allow hunters back into state forests.
"The government's own consultant acknowledges there's a genuine risk of people being shot with unsupervised hunting in state forests but, regardless, the minister has reopened the parks," he said.
"This is ideology over common sense."
Mr Shoebridge said that "sending unsupervised, armed amateurs with no proven competency into public spaces is a recipe for disaster. But this government doesn't seem to be getting the message."
State forests were first opened to amateur hunting in NSW in 2006.
Diana Melham, the NSW executive director of the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia, welcomed the announcement and said GPS devices were already used extensively.
‘‘This represents a significant acknowledgement by the government of the value of hunting to the environment and the important role played by volunteer hunters,’’ she said.
‘‘Hunting in state forests has operated safely and successfully in NSW for more than seven years and this resumption will be welcome news not just to hunters but for regional communities battling feral pests.’’