A lack of resources is hampering the Game Management Authority’s efforts to monitor illegal hunting in Victoria, said Sporting Shooters Association of Australia (Victoria) Hunting Development Manager David Laird.
“SSAA Victoria is pleased to see that GMA, in partnership with other agencies, has been active in combating illegal hunting activity,” he said.
“The recent operation in Eildon demonstrates the valuable role that intelligence gathering can play in identifying suspected offenders.
“But unfortunately enforcement capability is where GMA is lacking.”
The GMA reported that two men from Mansfield and a man from Taggerty were recently charged for allegedly committing a number of firearm offences in the Eildon area.
One of the men from Mansfield and the man from Taggerty are set to appear at Mansfield Magistrates Court on 16 January 2019.
“SSAA Victoria has repeatedly called on government to adequately resource GMA to enable it to have an effective on-ground presence in the bush,” Mr Laird said.
Mr Laird said that the increase in resources for the GMA promised by the Andrews Government (30 per cent staff increase and $6 million over four years) was welcomed. But he was concerned that it would not be enough.
“The reality of the situation is that hunting, both legal and illegal, is carried out in isolated areas,” Mr Laird said.
“There must be enough resources to enable a regular and broad-scale presence of officers in those areas to ensure effective enforcement can be carried out.”
Mr Laird said that intelligence gathering through the support of ethical hunters was also important.
“The vast majority of hunters obey the law and are responsible and ethical people,” Mr Laird said.
“It is past time that they, along with the residents who bear the brunt of the illegal activity, are protected from the negative effects of the illegal behaviour that has been allowed to develop.
“SSAA members are encouraged to report any suspicious or illegal hunting activity to GMA.”
“However, intelligence gathering is only one part of the compliance spectrum. It also needs to be balanced with hunter education and on-ground enforcement operations to encourage compliance and to counter illegal activity.
“The Association considers that GMA does a good job with the hunter education component and provides plenty of material to enable hunters to understand their legal obligations.”
GMA Chief Executive Officer Graeme Ford said GMA Game Officers recently teamed up with authorised officers from Forestry, Biosecurity, the Victorian Fisheries Authority and Victoria Police in a joint operation to target illegal hunting behaviour and firearms use.
“The officers executed search warrants on two properties in Mansfield and one in Taggerty in search for equipment believed to have been used in illegal game hunting and firearms activity,” Mr Ford said.
“A number of prohibited items and hunting equipment have been seized and investigations by the GMA and Victoria Police into potential hunting offences are ongoing.”
Mr Ford said the GMA, Victoria Police and partner agencies will continue to work together to target illegal hunting in Victoria.
“Illegal hunting and firearms use will not be tolerated. It is dangerous, can put people and wildlife at risk,” Mr Ford said.
“Hunters need to make sure that they are familiar with the hunting and firearms laws, are acting responsibly and are not hunting deer illegally.”
Hunters and the public are urged to report any illegal hunting to the GMA through its website www.gma.vic.gov.au or the Customer Service Centre on 136 186 or by contacting Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000, or Victoria Police.