Parliamentary Questions and Answers

Questions 264, 272, 273 - Answered on 3rd March, 2004

Tony Gregory: To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the recommendation of the Heritage Council regarding the introduction of hunting on State lands; if this recommendation conforms to best practise and official policy for the past 30 years; if it is his intention to reject the Heritage Council recommendation; if so, the reasons for doing so and the locations involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Emmet Stagg: To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the unanimous report of the Independent Scientific Group dated 18 June 2002 and which concluded that a blanket ban on hunting on State owned lands was without justification, and that if this ban were lifted or modified that no international agreements would be breached; and if in view of this report he will reconsider the blanket ban on hunting on State lands and the way in which it might be modified.

Emmet Stagg: To ask the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the international agreements or obligations which the Government would be in breach of if it were to allow hunting on State lands.

Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Mr. Cullen): I propose to take Questions Nos. 264, 272 and 273 together.

In 1999 my predecessor requested the Heritage Council to review the existing policy of no hunting on National Parks and Wildlife lands, taking into account the implications for wildlife conservation, sustainability, the interests of recreational users, potential impacts on the amenity value of the land, European and international policies and relevant issues of public safety. The Council recommended that the current policy of not allowing hunting on State lands acquired for nature conservation purposes and managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service should be maintained.

Following the advice issued by the Heritage Council and at the request of the National Association of Regional Game Councils (NARGC), my predecessor agreed, without prejudice, to a joint examination by a Scientific Group, comprising officials of my Department and nominees of NARGC, of the question of permitting hunting on State lands, from a scientific perspective only.

I have recently given careful consideration to all aspects of this matter, including the conclusions of the Scientific Group. While the Group considered that scientific reasons would not obtain for an automatic ban where hunting is sustainable, its report did not advance specific advice on how populations and sustainability should be assessed.

While the Group's report did propose a methodology for considering this matter further, the implementation of this would require significant National Parks and Wildlife personnel resources which would have to be diverted from other priority work. Furthermore, other considerations, for example public safety and the purpose for which the properties were acquired, have also to be taken into account.

Following a review of all of the issues I have concluded, therefore, that the established policy should continue to apply. This is a matter of national policy, rather than being mandated by international agreements.

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