Questions Without Notice: Duck Hunting Season | Sue Pennicuik

Questions Without Notice: Duck Hunting Season

My question is for the Minister for Agriculture, and it is a follow-up question to my question last week with regard to compliance and enforcement of the duck shooting regulations.
Wednesday, February 21, 2018 - 9:30am
Sue Pennicuik

Ms PENNICUIK (Southern Metropolitan) (12:15:07) — My question is for the Minister for Agriculture, and it is a follow-up question to my question last week with regard to compliance and enforcement of the duck shooting regulations. I agree that the new regulations will make little or no difference to the shooting of protected species. Last year at the Koorangie marshes I witnessed a barrage of early shooting at threatened species while Game Management Authority (GMA) officers and police stood on the shore. GMA compliance officers are constrained by OH&S regulations which mean they cannot go into the water and they cannot approach a shooter on the shore without being accompanied by two police officers. My question, Minister, is: how are GMA compliance officers expected to police duck shooters who are shooting before the official start time or shooting illegal species when they are not able to go into the water because of OH&S regulations?

Ms PULFORD (Minister for Agriculture) (12:16:11) — So today in question time we have had it asserted that the new regulations are completely over the top and completely ineffective. Maybe Mr Young and Ms Pennicuik could work out which it is.

Honourable members interjecting.

Ms PULFORD — Yes, I know. I suppose I was just making the point that no matter what approach anybody takes to the regulation of duck hunting and particularly the arrangements for opening weekend, there will be people in the community who are very unhappy about it. That is I suppose because the very nature of it is something that is quite contested in the community. But I do thank Ms Pennicuik for her question around compliance and enforcement capability of the GMA. I guess that also goes in part to the preparations for the opening weekend, which is now only about four weeks away.

So there are restrictions on which types of officers can enter the water — Ms Pennicuik is correct about that — but that has got to be seen in the context of a multi-agency enforcement effort. I can certainly assure both Mr Young and Ms Pennicuik that it will be significantly greater than it was last year and that we are currently putting in place the arrangements for different agencies to be available to ensure compliance with the rules and also to ensure that the community and people who are in our wetlands for opening weekend are kept safe.

I think, as I indicated in the answer to Ms Pennicuik's question in the house last week, there are limits to the extent I can detail all compliance planning and activities, but I would certainly reassure Ms Pennicuik that there will be officers who are able to enter the water. There will be officers from a range of agencies. We are certainly very conscious of the need to have a strong presence given the circumstances of last year and the opportunity I think for everyone involved to demonstrate a better outcome. That is one of the reasons that we have sought to change some of the rules. Ms Pennicuik has been critical of that and Mr Young has been critical of that, but I think that they strike the right balance. There has been extensive consultation with stakeholders throughout the development of those, and they are based on recommendations from the Game Management Authority about what is the best way to proceed for 2018.

Ms PENNICUIK (Southern Metropolitan) (12:19:35) — Thank you, Minister. I would be very interested if you could elaborate on the multi-agencies that you mentioned and while doing that indicate how many game management compliance officers will be available on the wetlands for the full three-month duck shooting season. I, myself, witness every opening weekend, which of course is the busiest weekend. As I mentioned, compliance officers do not enter the water. Shooters start shooting way before the time allocated for the start, protected birds and other birds that are not even ducks are shot before our eyes and no compliance officers ever go into the water to approach a shooter for breaching those two very obvious regulations. Could you elaborate on how regulations are going to be enforced by these multi-agency and GMA compliance officers?

Ms PULFORD (Minister for Agriculture) (12:20:45) — I thank Ms Pennicuik for her further question. I suppose there is a short answer and a slightly longer answer. I might just indicate that some of the agencies who will be involved include the GMA, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources enforcement staff, and Victoria Police. I will provide further detail insofar as I can around total numbers for Ms Pennicuik on notice. I have a fair idea, but the reason I cannot provide you with a complete picture of that is it is still being assembled. Staff are being recruited from a range of agencies, and that is happening right now. I might take that part of your question on notice so that I can provide you with the most contemporary information on our preparations.