Hunt fury may trigger park disruptions
ACCESS to national parks could be interrupted over summer as rangers consider ways to protest against the state government's introduction of hunting in NSW's 800 parks.
Anger among National Parks and Wildlife Service staff intensified over Christmas after a leaked draft risk assessment report showed the government will proceed with the plan despite warnings that a fatality or serious injury by gun wound was a ''major risk'' once shooting begins in March.
Rangers will consider walking off the job in the new year but Fairfax Media understands a second and more likely option is parks staff refusing to collect entrance fees as a way to keep parks open and shield the public from the industrial dispute while hitting the O'Farrell government in the hip pocket.
Steve Turner of the Public Service Association said rangers had reached boiling point after the risk assessment listed parks' staff, contractors and volunteers at the top of those at risk of ''projectiles'', including bullets and the arrows of bow hunters.
''They are very unhappy people and really scared about what will happen in March,'' Mr Turner said. ''It's like watching a head-on crash unfold in slow motion. Rangers know the day is coming and, thanks to this risk assessment, they now know how dangerous it will be.''
A Public Service Association survey of 292 rangers in September found more than 90 per cent did not support hunting in national parks and did not believe it would control pests.
The O'Farrell government has promised the hunting program will be ''well-managed, properly resourced and carried out under strict supervision''.
But rangers are particularly concerned over a lack of information about how hunters will be managed in the 79 parks where shooting will be initially trialled.
Under the the overhaul of the Game and Feral Animal Control Act - which takes effect on Thursday - just 48 parks, mainly in the Sydney metropolitan area, have been quarantined from hunting, leaving more than 650 potentially open to hunters in future.
It is expected that the state government-funded Game Council will oversee a licence system but it has less than five full-time staff and the Environment Minister, Robyn Parker, revealed in November, in answers to questions from a parliamentary committee, that the National Parks and Wildlife Service would be given no extra staff or money to monitor shooting.
Greg McFarland, a spokesman for the Game Council, said the permit system would be stricter than the current one for hunting in state forests, which requires new paperwork for each outing.
The system requires a police-issued firearms licence, membership of a hunting club and attendance at a Game Council training course, he said.
The draft risk assessment, produced by the Office of Environment and Heritage, raises the need for ''exclusion areas'' where shooting would not be permitted to help protect rangers.
Those would include:
Picnic areas, walking trails and access roads;
During fire, special events, fauna surveys, aerial culling;
Around park infrastructure, offices and houses.
The report urges park staff to wear high-visibility clothing to avoid being accidentally shot by hunters. Under Game Council guidelines, hunters must wear ''blaze orange'' clothing to identify themselves as armed.