The Victorian government has defended its changes to the upcoming duck shooting season despite warnings the 2018 regulations could see conflict break out between protesters and gun-weilding hunters.
Regulations released on Wednesday included a late start time on both days of the season’s opening weekend. The Game Management Authority said more light will mean shooters are better able to identify bird species and collect slain animals.
But the 9am start time is under fire from hunters who say it will put them in closer contact with protesters, who are allowed to enter wetlands from 10am.
Sport Shooters Association of Australia’s hunting development manager for Victoria, David Laird, said while his group agreed in principle to some of the new requirements, such as retrieving all shot birds and harvesting their breast meat, the 9am start was a dangerous move.
“There will be hunters frustrated by the delayed start who will then be confronted by protestors who will be allowed into the wetland areas during hunting activity,” he said.
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“This is not a good mix and will put the Game Management Authority and local law enforcement under more pressure to deal with the arising conflict.
“Protestors deliberately placing themselves in front of people legally discharging firearms, as they have in the past, is highly irresponsible and obviously dangerous.”
Normally hunters finished shooting before 10am when protesters arrived, he said.
Mr Laird strongly advised Victorian agriculture minister Jaala Pulford against the new start time before it was announced on Wednesday.
But a government spokesperson said the settings for the 2018 duck season reflected advice of the GMA, the independent statutory authority responsible for the regulation of game hunting in Victoria.
The changes follow the early shooting, abandonment of shot birds and wrongful killing of some species at Koorangie Wildlife Reserve, near Kerang, last year.
“[Hunters] fired early, failed to correctly identify their target, and failed to pick up spent cartridges during last year's opening weekend,” the spokesperson said.
State Nationals MP Peter Walsh accused the government this week of pandering to “green ideology” in failing to take advice from pro-shooting groups.
”Victorian hunters legally taking part in the duck hunting season are being penalised by a Labor government desperate to keep the Greens on-side,” he said.
“Duck hunting is a legitimate recreational activity that brings thousands of hunters and their families into regional Victoria and provides a healthy boost to our regional economies.”