Wetlands closure decision-making inefficient

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Shooters and Fishers Member for Northern Victoria Daniel Young is calling on the Victorian Government to immediately improve on the process of announcing to duck hunters the closures and openings of wetlands they access.

Late on March 18, the eve of the 2016 duck hunting season opening, hunters at Lake Elizabeth State Game Reserve near Kerang were shocked to learn the government had made the decision to close the area, because 155 blue-billed ducks were present.

“The Minister for Agriculture stated in Parliament this week the blue-billed ducks were spotted at the lake by Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning staff three days prior to the announcement made to close the wetlands,” Mr Young said.

“Knowing that duck hunting season was right around the corner, it beggars belief that no-one from the government thought it could be in everyone’s best interest to declare the sightings may lead to a closure well in advance of night before opening.

“In a statement to parliament, the Minister for Agriculture went to great lengths to explain the process by which consultation with various state bodies had to be made over the few days between the blue-billed duck sightings on March 15 and last-minute announcement on March 28.

“An announcement this late prior to an opening is unprecedented and unfair.

“In this day and age, it is incomprehensible that some notice could not have be given to hunters the closure was being considered, allowing them to decide whether to wait for a formal announcement or make other arrangements.”

Mr Young said he has been inundated with messages from duck hunters who had set up camp at the lake, to be told in the dead of night of the closure announcement and ordered to move on. He is also receiving reports that some of the move-on orders were handled in an unprofessional and disgusting manner, which on its own deserves investigation.

“This process and late announcement was not only was it an unnecessary inconvenience to hunters, but an unnecessary waste of resources in that police and Game Management Authority staff were tasked with making these unexpected and time-consuming patrols and orders,” Mr Young said.

Further, Mr Young is concerned that the process by which closed wetlands are re-opened is also flawed and unfair.

“The timeframe to consider closures of wetlands is extremely short, compared to the timeframe given to consider the reopening of a wetland,” he said. “These decisions can be on hold for weeks.

“I have asked the Minister of Agriculture to consider shortening the timeframe to consider reopening closed wetlands when conditions, such as the lack of presence of a species like the blue-billed duck, are no longer an issue.”

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