HUNTING has been suspended in all 400 State forests and two Crown Lands areas pending the transfer of NSW Game Council functions into the Department of Primary Industries (DPI).
NSW Minister for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson today announced the NSW government will disband the Games Council and transfer its functions into the DPI. This comes as the government announced it would adopt all the key recommendations from Steve Dunn's Review of Governance of the Game Council.
She said the DPI would establish a Game Board that will undertake roles presently conducted by the Games Council, including stakeholder engagement and representation, advocate hunting and a research advisory role.
"The director general of NSW Trade and Investment Mark Paterson will become the division head of the Game Council division in the interim to oversee the integration of functions into the DPI," Ms Hodgkinson said.
The government has also immediately suspended hunting in all 400 State forests and two Crown Lands areas while the transfer of functions is underway and the Games Council is abolished.
Ms Hodgkinson said nominees for the board would be ministerially appointed based on merit and all existing 21 staff under the current Games Council would be transfered to the new structure under the DPI.
She said key in her decision to support Steve Dunn's report recommendations was its finding that "more than a decade after it was established the Game Council has no overarching governance framework; lacks a strategic planning framework; lacks some of the skills, tools and resources to ensure effective compliance with its regulatory framework; has no internal regulatory compliance program, has no approved enterprise-wide risk management framework and has an inadequate policy framework".
"I can't just stand by and allow that to continue - I take full responsibility for the changes," Ms Hodgkinson said.
She said one of her primary concerns was for staff employed in the area of compliance and their safety, but she also saw the need to restore confidence in the public in this area.
This included the "20,000-plus volunteers that assist us with feral animal control", referring to those who undertake shooting in State parks.
Among the recommendations was for a research strategy to prioritise projects to address how hunting programs can be designed and effectively used to manage the impacts of game and feral animals.
Cabinet has approved Ms Hodgkinson's recommendations and the changes are expected to be legislated during the spring sessions of Parliament.
Environment Minister Robyn Parker also announced a strict regime of controls for the introduction of the supplementary pest control program in the State's national parks.
She said the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) would regulate and manage the program.
"The program will be similar to our hazard reduction operations, which use volunteers with a high level of training and competency, which is equivalent to that held by professional staff," Ms Parker said.
"The program may be made available in up to 75 - less than 10 per cent - of the State's national parks or reserves. The majority of these parks are in the State's west, and the program will not occur in any wilderness, world heritage or metropolitan area.
"Initially only 12 parks or reserves will be part of the program. There will be a review and report back to Cabinet before any further roll-out of the program."
Parks and reserves will be zoned A or B.
- Zone A: Volunteers will be part of the NPWS team and working shoulder to shoulder with experienced NPWS staff.
- Zone B: Experienced and trained volunteers are supervised by NPWS staff.