The duck hunting debate continues in Gippsland

Last month, Eastern Victoria MLC Melina Bath and Gippsland South MLA Danny OBrien called for the state government to confirm the 2020 duck hunting season. Ms Bath (left) and Mr OBrien (right) are pictured at Heart Morass, Sale, with Sale Field and Game representative Gary Howard (second from right) and Field and Game Australia chief executive Dean OHara. The government has since announced a shorter season with reduced bag limits. The season will begin on May 2 and end on June 8.
Last month, Eastern Victoria MLC Melina Bath and Gippsland South MLA Danny OBrien called for the state government to confirm the 2020 duck hunting season. Ms Bath (left) and Mr OBrien (right) are pictured at Heart Morass, Sale, with Sale Field and Game representative Gary Howard (second from right) and Field and Game Australia chief executive Dean OHara. The government has since announced a shorter season with reduced bag limits. The season will begin on May 2 and end on June 8.

A LOCAL politician has this week responded to accusations that he is biased when it comes to advocacy surrounding duck hunting.

Regional Victorians Opposed to Duck Shooting spokesperson Kerrie Allen said she understood Gippsland South MLA Danny O'Brien to be a member of Field and Game Australia.

"... we believe this is causing him to promote the 'benefits' of duck shooting, even though only 1.8 per cent of his voting constituents are duck shooters," Ms Allen said.

"Official figures show about half [of] licensed duck shooters don't participate in the activity."

Mr O'Brien confirmed he has been a member of Field and Game Sale branch for about five years, adding it was something he had previously declared publicly, and was not new information.

"I am not a duck hunter, but I strongly support the rights of those who are," he said.

"Being a member of Field and Game Australia isn't what makes me hold that view."

Market research company uComms conducted a survey of 693 residents across the Gippsland South electorate on February 3 and 4, who were asked the question, "With native waterbird numbers at record lows and fires devastating wildlife populations, would you support or oppose a suspension of the 2020 duck shooting season?".

Just over half (50.6 per cent) of respondents said they would support a ban, with 43.3 per cent opposed.

The remaining 6.1 per cent were unsure, or didn't know.

When asked if they would like to see their local member of parliament support a suspension of this year's duck shooting season, 47.2 per cent of phone call recipients responded yes, while 43.1 per cent said no, and 9.7 per cent weren't sure.

Mr O'Brien said even on the poll figures, his electorate showed the strongest support for a duck season in comparison to other electorates, which was "no surprise".

"Sale Field and Game Association is the largest branch in the country, and a government study from 2014 shows Gippsland receives a $76 million per annum benefit from hunting, including duck hunting," he said, with Gippsland including Wellington Shire, East Gippsland, Latrobe, Baw Baw, South Gippsland and the Bass Coast, and hunting including all animal groups (duck, deer, pest and quail).

According to the same report, duck hunting specifically resulted in a $16.4 million expenditure in Gippsland in 2013.

"I appreciate some people oppose hunting and I respect that, but I remain a strong supporter of the rights of law-abiding hunters and a sustainable, regulated duck season," Mr O'Brien said.

Ms Allen said according to the same study, duck shooting only brought $200,000 to the South Gippsland local government area in 2013.

"This is generous based on direct and flow-on benefits," she said.

"The survey did not account for adverse impact to tourism.

"The public are tired of shooters' self serving spin about duck shooting being sustainable or economically beneficial.

"It's very clearly neither."

The Department of Environment and Primary Industries' 'Estimating the economic impact of hunting in Victoria in 2013' report, which both parties are quoting figures from, says duck hunting accounted for 24 per cent or $99.4 million of total Victorian hunting expenditure in 2013, with expenditure in Wellington Shire from duck hunting totalling $7.5 million.

"The Melbourne region accounted for 39 per cent of the total ($38.5m), followed by Greater Bendigo ($8.4m), Greater Geelong ($7.6m), Wellington ($7.5m), Latrobe ($4.8m) and Greater Shepparton ($4.6m)," the report reads.

Regional Victorians Opposed to Duck Shooting has written to Premier Daniel Andrews asking for a public explanation of his decision to allow this year's duck hunting season, and a commitment to visit duck hunting sites.

The group said it had previously twice requested a meeting with Eastern Victoria MLC Melina Bath, and received no response.

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