Supporters protest in Armidale mall over hunting in national parks

ANTI-HUNTING activists took aim at the state government’s proposed changes to national parks in Armidale on Saturday.

About 150 people participated in the National Parks Association of NSW’s community rally in the Beardy St mall.

The rally was designed to spread the message against opening up 78 of the state’s national parks to hunters.

Rally co-ordinator Justin McKee said the protest was the 17th held by the association since the state government voted, in June last year, to allow amateur and recreational hunting to occur in the parks from March 1.

The association said the unpopular legislation was not publicly challenged by any Nationals or Liberal members of Parliament.

The association said the move meant the O’Farrell government had broken a pre-election promise to keep recreational shooting out of national parks. 

Mr McKee said he had been overwhelmed by the support and that it was initially anticipated about 60 people would attend. 

“It’s reassuring for us to have that many people come out in support of having the changes repealed by 2015,” he said.

A number of speakers offered their views on the changes throughout the meeting.

Mr McKee said each speech had been designed to educate those present about the impacts the changes could have and provide some history as to how and why the National Parks and Wildlife Service had been established. 

Member for Northern Tablelands Richard Torbay sent an apology because he was unable to attend the rally, but used the opportunity to reaffirm his stance on the changes. 

He issued a statement, which was read to the crowd: “This bill was put forward with little or no detail about the management of shooting in national parks, explanation of why metropolitan parks have been excluded or how the Game and Feral Animal Control Act would work.” 

Armidale’s Australian Labor Party branch president Tony Ramsay and Armidale Dumaresq councillor Peter O’Donahue, of the Greens, also spoke at the event. 

Mr McKee said the next step in the fight to have the changes repealed would be further protests. 

“We acknowledge that there is a problem and pests need to be eradicated from our national parks,” he said.

“But we don’t believe these changes are the way to do it.

“We want to see and support an integrate program that is well managed be implemented as a primary way of eradicating those pests.”

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