Elliot Newspaper Group


THE release of a report on the economic and social value of recreational hunting and shooting has prompted fresh calls from opponents of duck shooting in northern Victoria for a ban on the activity. The report, commissioned last year by Deputy Nationals leader Bridget McKenzie when she was sports minister, was intended to prove the benefits and improve the image of hunting and shooting. However, while the authors estimated Australia’s 640,000 recreational hunters and shooters contribute $2.4 billion to the economy ($0.8 billion directly and $1.6 billion in flow-on activity), they identified a net national benefit of just $335 million and 3300 jobs. “If hunting and shooting were prohibited, hunters and shooters would redirect their expenditure to other goods and services, and in many cases to similar outdoor activities such as camping, fishing, four-wheel driving and so on,” the report said. The analysis also found hunters and shooters were likely to be more active than the general population and have higher levels of wellbeing. Regional Victorians Opposed to Duck Shooting described the report, which was based on an online survey of 16,576 people, as “only surveying one side”. “It didn’t consider the lost economic potential, the impacts on local businesses and on the people who live with shooting for three months of the year,” spokesperson Kerrie Allen said. Ms Allen pointed to a 2017 report by peak industry group the Tourism and Transport Forum which found nature-based tourism was worth $41 billion and described tourism as “an economic lifeline” for northern Victoria. Sydney-based tourism operator Shannon O’Brien, who runs Murray River Adventures and the Black Swan canoe race out of Cohuna, told the Gannawarra Times he was angry and frustrated about the situation with duck shooting in the Gannawarra shire. “I’m not opposed to hunting and shooting by any means,” Mr O’Brien said. “I think in many cases there’s historical and cultural value to it, but this is about public safety and access and investment in tourism. “With the onset of tourism growth for the region with the Murray River adventure trail, the two activities are polar opposites. “And there is absolutely no regulation and understanding from the people who are responsible for the shooters.” On a recent kayaking trip, Mr O’Brien, his family and a group of school students were frightened by a shooter in close proximity. “We launched out from Apex Park, and so did a group of secondary students from Cohuna,” he said. “We were paddling around and all of a sudden there were gunshots. “We couldn’t see him but the shooter was within 50m of us. “The question to the government is, who has right of way and what happens if someone gets shot,” Mr O’Brien questioned. “I find it baffling that no one has got answers.” Mr O’Brien said the Gannawarra shire’s tourism potential for kayaking and canoeing was among the strongest in the country. “I’m really angry because I’m trying to invest in this new tourism and in the shire,” he said. However, Sporting Shooters Association of Australia, Victorian communications manager Justin Law insisted that duck shooting was a form of tourism which brought economic benefits to regional Victoria. He disputed that banning it would open up major tourism potential. “It’s another way of enjoying being out in nature,” Mr Law said. “It’s localised to game reserves and occurs for only three months of the year. “It’s families, it’s groups of friends who go out wanting to put food on the table.” Mr Law said he believed duck shooters and hunters were subjected to “prejudice and bigotry”.