Hunters are regularly breaking the law in Victoria and the regulator in charge of policing them is failing, a leaked report has revealed.
Victoria’s Game Management Authority has failed to enforce hunting laws, leaked report says
The report found it was common for hunters to break the law
Last year hundreds of protected birds were killed and more than 1,000 dead ducks dumped
The state’s Agriculture Minister has labelled the report “very concerning” and refused to rule out shutting the Game Management Authority (GMA) down.
Last year’s duck season was marred by a bloody opening weekend in which at least 260 protected birds were killed at the Koorangie State Game Reserve, near Kerang.
More than a thousand ducks were also left uncollected, including hundreds that were found buried whole at the wetland, as 7.30 revealed last year.
That chaotic weekend sparked a closure of that game reserve and an independent review of the GMA — the regulatory body that is supposed to ensure sustainable and responsible hunting.
7.30 has obtained a leaked copy of that review and its findings are damning.
The report by Pegasus Economics found “non-compliance with hunting laws is commonplace and widespread” and that “by any standard, the GMA has failed to deliver on its responsibility to enforce the hunting laws”.
“The events at Koorangie Marshes, and earlier similar events at Box Flat in 2013, represent significant failures of a state regulatory agency to enforce the laws for which it is responsible and have seriously undermined the GMA’s credibility as an independent and credible regulator,” the report said.
It also found that even the GMA’s own staff don’t believe it can ensure compliance with the hunting laws or effectively punish those who break them.
Other criticisms include that the GMA focuses too much energy on managing protesters instead of policing hunters, that the licencing regime is ineffective and that the GMA sometimes “slides into advocacy and promotional roles that conflict with its responsibilities as a regulator”.
Activists say report should end duck hunting in Victoria
Long-time duck rescuer Laurie Levy said last year’s season was one of the bloodiest he had seen in more than 30 years of activism.
He has been briefed on the Pegasus report and thought it would spell an end to duck hunting in Victoria.
“I had hoped that the report would force the [Agriculture] Minister [Jaala Pulford] to bring duck shooting to an end for all time,” he said.
“The report was so damning of the Game Management Authority, I thought this can’t go on. The Minister would have to look after our native water birds and close down duck shooting completely.”
He said it illustrated there was effectively no-one policing the waterways and has called for drastic measures.
Apart from closing the season down, “the only other way you can introduce law and order to the wetlands is to bring the army in”, he said.
“You can’t do it through the police because the police are so busy looking after the public of Victoria,” Mr Levy said.
“They don’t have time to be on the wetlands, so you would have to bring the army in.
“But the Government could take the best option and ban duck shooting altogether, as three other states have done.”
‘We can only do what we can do’, GMA says
The GMA said the report is comprehensive and it is taking it seriously.
“The Board is supportive of the recommendations made,” GMA chair Brian Hine said.
“We’ve implemented the ones that we can implement, that we have the power and resources to do now and they’re in place and they’ll be in place now for the forthcoming duck season.”
However, he pointed out that the Authority has limited resources.
“It’s a $5 million budget and about 20 staff, so we need more, we need to make the best of what we’ve got,” he said.
“We have an excellent very small team who have been working very hard for three years, since the establishment of the Authority, to ensure we have the right processes and procedures in place.
“We’re not perfect, we’re not there yet and we need help, we need help from hunters themselves. So it’s really critical.
“We can only do what we can do. I think we’re getting very good value for the relatively small budget and relatively small authority that we have.”
Mr Hine said the GMA had already made a number of changes since last duck season.
The start time on the opening weekend is later, the licence testing tougher and hunters will now be breaking the law if they don’t retrieve shot ducks or harvest their breast meat.
But Ms Pulford said the report is very concerning and will not rule out shutting down the GMA.
“I think today it’s premature to speculate about the results of some work that we’re undertaking as a government,” she told 7.30.
“It is entirely possible that the GMA will not survive this process in its current shape, in its current form.
“The very first test that the GMA has to pass, they didn’t get through so well.”
Shooters’ groups in rare agreement with activists over GMA
There are 48,000 licenced game hunters in Victoria, including about 26,000 duck hunters.
Field and Game Australia represents about 18,000 of them.
Its chief executive officer Richard Light disputed the claim that misbehaviour was widespread among hunters, saying that what happened at Koorangie was atypical.
“Our response to that incident was disappointment, but we believe it’s a very, very isolated case,” he said.
“Hunters are law abiding citizens and by their nature, Field and Game members are passionate about ducks and the wetlands.
“We do not support any illegal activity by people breaking the law, we want to see them prosecuted.”
Mr Light also revealed the FGA had written to Ms Pulford, along with two other hunting organisations, to express concerns about the GMA’s ability to fulfil its role.
“The GMA and the Government need to strictly enforce the rules, we’ve been calling for this for a long time,” he said.
The Pegasus Economics report showed that one hunting organisation described GMA as “woefully inadequate”.
Topics: environment, wetlands, animal-welfare, australia, vic, kerang-3579
First posted 1 Mar 2018, 4:39pm
Regulators unable to crack down on unsustainable duck hunting
ELLEN FANNING, PRESENTER: Duck hunting season opens in Victoria later this month, and with it the annual resumption of hostilities between hunters and animal-lovers.
Last year, 7.30 broadcast graphic footage of hundreds of dead birds dumped in wetlands.
Well, tonight we can reveal that such unsustainable hunting is on the rise, and according to a leaked report, regulators feel unable to enforce the rules.
Lauren Day with this exclusive report.
LAURIE LEVY, ANIMAL ACTIVIST: This is one of the Ramsar wetlands in Kerang and of course, once duck shooting comes to an end, these wetlands could be opened up to nature-based wetlands tourism and that’s where the big money is.
LAUREN DAY: It is sunrise over Lake Cullen and the early birds are up.
So too is their long-time defender, Laurie Levy.
LAURIE LEVY: I can see four freckled ducks at the moment.
LAUREN DAY: He’s preparing for another season rescuing ducks after one of the deadliest he’s ever seen.
LAURIE LEVY: There was a bloody massacre out there and it was shocking.
We brought out was just on 1,500 birds, 296 were protected species.
LAUREN DAY: 7.30 obtained footage of the aftermath of last season’s opening weekend, which revealed two pits containing almost 200 whole gamebirds.
The footage also appeared to show the questionable hunting practices, including downed ducks left to die in the water while hunters continued shooting other birds.
That chaotic weekend sparked the closure of this game reserve and an independent review into the regulatory body that is supposed to ensure responsible and sustainable duck hunting.
7.30 has obtained a leaked copy of that review and its findings are damning.
It found ‘non-compliance with hunting laws is commonplace and widespread’. That even the Game Management Authority’s (GMA) own staff don’t believe it can ensure compliance or effectively sanction hunters who break laws. That it’s inability to do so has undermined its credibility and integrity and that by any standard, the GMA has failed to deliver on its responsibility to enforce the hunting laws.
BRIAN HINE, GAME MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY: It’s a very comprehensive report.
All I can say is that we’re taking it very seriously, the board is supportive of the recommendations made.
As I said, we’ve implemented the ones that we can implement, that we have the power and the resources to do now.
LAURIE LEVY: Well, when I first saw the report I had hoped the report would force the Minister to bring duck shooting to an end for all-time.
LAUREN DAY: Hunters are also unhappy. Field and Game Australia represents around 18,000 shooters and wants to see those who break the law punished.
RICHARD LIGHT, FIELD AND GAME AUSTRALIA: We have submitted a report to Minister Pulford stating our concerns, along with two other hunting organisations, about the ability of the GMA to fulfil its role.
JAALA PULFORD, AGRICULTURE MINISTER: The very first hard test that the GMA had to pass, they didn’t get through so well.
LAUREN DAY: If their performance doesn’t improve, would you consider shutting down the GMA?
JAALA PULFORD: Well, I think today it is premature to speculate about the results of some work that we are undertaking as a government.
It is entirely possible that the GMA will not survive this process in its current shape, in its current form.
LAUREN DAY: The Game Management Authority says it’s made a number of changes since last duck season.
The start time on the opening weekend is later, the licence testing tougher, and hunters will now be breaking the law if they don’t retrieve shot ducks or harvest their breast meat.
BRIAN HINE: There’s nothing in that report that which would indicate that we cannot regulate efficiently and effectively with the support of responsible hunting behaviour, a duck season in Victoria.
LAUREN DAY: Can you assure Victorians, who are paying about $5 million a year for the Game Management Authority, that their money is not being wasted and that the authority can actually do the job that it has been tasked with?
BRIAN HINE: Look, we’re not perfect, we’re not there yet and we need help. We need help from hunters themselves.
So it is really critical. We can only do what we can do.
I think we’re getting very good value for the relatively small budget and relatively small authority that we have.
LAUREN DAY: About 20 k’s from the site at the centre of last duck season’s controversial opening weekend, Paul Haw is tending to his sheep.
His property fronts another wetland which is popular with hunters.
PAUL HAW: Well, when the lake is full of water is within 50 metres of the house, just down there?
And we quite often get pellets landing on the roof.
LAUREN DAY: In their defence, shooters argue they contribute around $400 million into local communities.
Paul Haw says those figures are overblown.
PAUL HAW: Most of them come up here from Melbourne, camp in their tents, so they are no value to the caravan park or anything like that but next day they might come in for a cup of coffee and get some petrol and things like that and you can’t tell me that’s millions of dollars.
LAUREN DAY: He’s hoping a dry summer will keep the birds and hunters away.
At least until authorities can fix what he believes is a broken system.
PAUL HAW: If we had a plebiscite today, duck shooting would be banned tomorrow and I can see the day because they’ve become so irresponsible.
JAALA PULFORD: And there are lots and lots of people in the community who don’t like duck hunting but it’s very important for many people in the community and most of them are very committed to its sustainability.
ELLEN FANNING: Lauren Day reporting there.
Duck hunting watchdog in the gun
Farrah Tomazin, The Age, 2 March 2018
Duck hunting season opens on March 17.
Photo: Jason South
The government agency meant to enforce Victoria’s game hunting rules lets duck shooters flout the law and is widely viewed as toothless, including by its own staff.
With duck hunting season starting in weeks, a scathing review has found the state’s Game Management Authority is not fulfilling its responsibilities in compliance and enforcement, placing pressure on the state government to suspend shooting this year and overhaul the agency.
“While many hunters are responsible and respect the game hunting laws, non-compliance with the game hunting laws is commonplace and widespread,” says the leaked report. “The GMA is widely perceived by its stakeholders and its own staff as either unable to ensure compliance … or to effectively sanction offenders when those laws are breached.”
The review, by Pegasus Economics, was commissioned by the GMA board last year in the wake of a controversial start to the 2017 season, in which hundreds of protected birds were killed at the Koorangie State Game Reserve, west of Kerang.
GMA officers found hunters engaging in “illegal, unethical and irresponsible” behaviour including shooting before it was legal to do so, failing to recover shot birds and shooting protected species.
However, only one infringement notice was issued to a hunter for shooting early, and four were later issued to a group who failed to retain a wing on a game duck for identification. In contrast, 11 banning notices were issued to anti-hunting protesters.
The review also found:
The small size of the agency places it in danger of being “captured” by the interests it is meant to regulate. Tougher minimum licensing standards for game hunters are needed.
The authority’s complaints handling system doesn’t meet the standards of a good regulator.
The agency sometimes slides into advocacy and promotional roles that are in conflict with its regulatory role.
The latest figures suggest the GMA has only one compliance manager and five full-time senior game officers, while Victoria has about 25,000 licensed game hunters.
“They can barely oversee one wetland, let alone up to 20,000,” said Coalition Against Duck Shooting spokesman Laurie Levy, who has called for the GMA to be abolished.
Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford said yesterday that she asked her department to review the structure of the GMA.
But she confirmed the 2017 season would begin on March 17 as planned, pointing out that several improvements had already been made. These included a requirement for hunters to retrieve the birds they shoot and to salvage the meat, as well as for hunting to start later on the opening weekend.
A GMA spokesman said there would be more compliance officers this season than ever before.
However, Animals Australia director Lyn White said: ‘‘This comes back to the government’s obligation to uphold the law.
“If the Andrews’ government cannot provide the Victorian community with a concrete assurance that hunting laws will be monitored and enforced on all Victorian wetlands throughout the three-month season, then it should not be allowed to proceed.”
With the state election only nine months away, duck hunting is likely to again prove politically dicey for Labor.
It is understood that hunting organisations have also written to the minister expressing concerns about the government’s ability to fulfil its role.
Duck hunting season to go ahead despite scathing Game Management Authority report
Genevieve Alison, Herald Sun
March 1, 2018 10:50pm
Animal Rights Activists Dump Hundreds of Dead Ducks at Victorian Premier’s Office
DUCK hunting season will go ahead this month despite a scathing report which revealed the sport’s governing agency has failed to properly enforce hunting laws.
A leaked report commissioned by Game Management Authority found noncompliance by shooters during the season was “widespread”, as reported by the ABC. The damning review by Pegasus Economics also found the GMA was too focused on managing animal rights’ protesters than policing shooters.
The report was ordered after last year’s hunting season came under fire when hundreds of protected species of birds were killed.
Agricultural minister Jaala Pulford said the actions of some shooters were “unacceptable”.
“The vast majority of hunters do the right thing, but last year there was a minority of hunters whose actions were unacceptable,” she said.
Ms Pulford said the GMA had failed as a regulator during last season and the structure of the agency would be reviewed.
The report was ordered after last year’s hunting season was plagued with controversy. Picture Yuri Kouzmin
“We’ve taken significant steps to boost our compliance capacity this year and have introduced new regulations to make it easier for officers to detect hunters doing the wrong thing,” Ms Pulford said.
“Surge capacity from Victoria Police, DELWP, DEDJTR, and Parks Victoria is crucial. And these resources have been boosted for the 2018 season,” she said.
The GMA board has accepted every recommendation in the report except one.
“That recommendation goes to the structure of the regulator and is being considered by the government,” Ms Pulford said.
This year’s season is expected to commence on March 17 with several new regulations to come into effect on opening weekend.
These include a later start time to improve visibility for both shooters and enforcement officers to detect unlawful behaviour and requiring hunters to recover every duck they shoot.
A senior staff member at Victoria’s hunting regulator has quit, claiming the organisation is poorly run and he was actively discouraged from investigating alleged breaches of hunting laws.
The Game Management Authority (GMA) has been under pressure since the ABC’s 7.30 program last month revealed an independent review had found it was failing its responsibilities and the minister responsible refused to rule out shutting the GMA down.
Then manager of compliance George Bucchorn, a former homicide detective, claims the GMA was never committed to rigorously investigating hunters accused of breaking hunting laws.
“They don’t have the skills and they don’t have the will to investigate,” he told 7.30.
“You can’t regulate hunting with the resources that they have so it was almost destined to fail.
“They do not have the capability or the capacity to control hunters.”
GMA ‘actively trying to discourage me from investigating’
Mr Bucchorn said he was blocked from applying for search warrants and obtaining sophisticated monitoring equipment, and his recommendations to pursue investigations were rejected.
“The GMA were actively trying to discourage me from investigating,” he said.
“I was directed not to make any reference to cruelty or the code of practice that hunters should abide by.”
He told 7.30 there were only five compliance officers tasked with overseeing thousands of hunters on Victoria’s wetlands, which he believed was woefully inadequate.
In a statement, a GMA spokesperson said it took “any suggestion of wrongdoing seriously”.
“We can confirm that there is already an investigation into these matters, however we cannot provide more detail about this investigation at this time,” the spokesperson said.
“So far the overwhelming majority of duck hunters and activists have complied with the rules and regulations of this year’s duck hunting season.”
Mr Bucchorn tendered his resignation in late March, citing his “many ongoing concerns” with the GMA.
“If nothing changes, hunters will still carry on and behave the way they are. They can’t self-regulate and eventually public opinion will put a stop to hunting, to game hunting,” he said.
He said the GMA’s responsibilities should be transferred to another agency.