Kerrie Allen, spokesperson, Regional Victorians Opposed to Duck Shooting
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
OUR native ducks and rural communities to date have been spared.
Victoria’s recreational bird shoot was delayed, set to begin in May and run for three weeks.
But whether it’s three months, three weeks or three days, most believe bird shooting has no place in a modern society.
Less than half of one percent of the population shoot birds.
Not a single Victorian electorate has more than 2.48 per cent of voters who shoot birds.
Most electorates have between zero and half of one per cent.
Conversely, the latest Ucomms poll (January 2021) shows the majority of Victorians want bird shooting banned – and the strongest support for a ban came from regional areas.
There’s good reason.
According to ballistics experts, at least one in four of the tens of thousands of birds shot each year – even in ‘restricted’ seasons – will be wounded only, flapping away to die slow painful deaths over days or weeks (why other states have banned it).
Many farmers are realising the benefits of ducks.
They eat algae and the real crop pests (why they are used overseas to help rice farming).
They even eat liver fluke.
Meanwhile the most robust, long-term scientific data set available ,shows our native waterbirds have fallen 90 per cent since the late 1980s.
‘Game’ bird numbers fell a further 23 per cent just in the 12 months to October 2020.
In Victoria, waterbird numbers plummeted closer to 50 per cent in the same time frame and there’s been little, if any, breeding despite rain.
From an economic perspective, a 2019 government survey of duck shooters showed their alleged spend dropped 46 per cent across Victoria between 2013 and 2019.
The fall was even sharper in Gippsland.
East Gippsland and Wellington fell 58 per cent, Baw Baw 73 per cent and the already low spend areas of Bass Coast and South Gippsland fell off the list of mentions.
The key towns of Traralgon and Bairnsdale fell 72 per cent and 66 per cent respectively, while Rosedale – where our billboard was slashed – also fell of the list of mentions.
Remember too, these shooter surveys do not account for the costs of shooting to the community either.
Independent economists report duck shooting is detrimental.
The costs of it include loss of tourism, loss of ability to work from home near it (and far more people live near waterways these days), and for shift workers to sleep.
Bird shooting sends children into tears, horses through fences and farmers into high trespass alert.
And let’s not forget the taxpayer dollars pouring into attempts to monitor this minority choice of recreation.
All this poses the question of why Gippsland MPs persist in promoting the minority choice of recreation.
In east Gippsland only 2.4 per cent of voters are duck shooters while a poll targeted at east Gippsland in February 2020 showed majority of constituents were opposed to it.
Similarly, only 1.87 per cent of south Gippslanders are licensed duck shooters, while a UComms poll in February 2020 showed the majority supported a ceasefire – the highest percentage strongly supporting one.
There’s a better way.
Tourism typically contributes more to Australia’s economy than agriculture, forestry, fishing, media and communications combined.
Even during COVID it was worth more than $50 billion, employed about five per cent of working Australians and supported one in eight businesses (Tourism Satellite Account).
Nature-based tourism is the fastest growing component.
Phillip Island Nature Parks, where they shoot with camera, is one success story, known to contribute half a billion dollars a year to Victoria’s economy – $120 million and 800 jobs just to the Bass Coast.
Year ending 2019, more than 860,000 domestic tourists bird-watched across our country (Tourism Research Australia National Visitor Survey).
More overnight domestic tourists went birdwatching than visited the Great Barrier Reef.
When independent economists report most holidaymakers avoid shooting areas, it’s clear we must make a choice.
It’s not rocket science to see 860,000 birdwatchers is a better economic opportunity for regional areas than 7000 active duck shooters (Game Management Authority statistics) who typically camp and bring their own supplies.
Victoria’s domestic tourism continues to lag that of New South Wales and Queensland – both of which have long banned bird shooting and instead focus on nature-based tourism.
With regional Victoria blessed with stunning wetland habitats that could rival Kakadu, home to species of birds unique to Australia, our opportunity is clear.
It’s time Victoria’s rural communities were given the chance to protect our natural assets, and in so doing, secure our financial futures.