Relationship with Sporting Shooters Association of Australia

Conservation Through Sustainable Use of Wildlife Conference (30 August – 1 September 2016) In association with Sporting Shooters Association of Australia

Background relationship:
The Council of Licenced Firearms Owners Inc (COLFO) and Sporting Shooters Association of Australia (SSAA) have a Memorandum of Understanding with each other signed in February 2015.

The Memorandum encourages both organisations to support, encourage and exchange information of mutual interest. We have committed to take opportunities for face to face meetings in order to assist this.

COLFO sent two of its representatives to Australia recently to meet with SSAA and conduct a formal meeting. While there we also attended the SSAA sponsored conference named “Conservation Through Sustainable Use of Wildlife”. Myself as Secretary of COLFO and New Zealand Deerstalkers Association President Bill O’Leary travelled to the Australia for the event.

Conference summary:
The conference itself was held over three days. There were 72 presenters of which 10 were Keynote Speakers. The program consisted of these presenters delivering over 7 sessions.

Session headings included: Human Dimensions of Sustainable Use; Wild Resource Management; Wildlife Policy and Regulation; Use and Control of Vertebrate Pests; Non-Consumptive Sustainable Use; Sustainable Indigenous use of Wildlife and Wildlife Trade and Commercial Use.

With 72 speakers of high academic status we were inundated with scientific analysis and data from Doctors, Professors, Emeritus Professors and PhD students.

Focus was on the kangaroo and some deer populations in certain areas. Camels and goat farming also played a significant role in presentation content. The kangaroo has always been regarded as a pest in Australia and apart from two States it was illegal to harvest back in the 80’s. The meat is healthy and lean and in some areas farmers are looking to fence huge properties to contain the wild kangaroo population. Of course other issues arise such as unavailability of slaughter houses and logistic carriers to transport animals from farm to slaughter house then shipping.

A presentation was made about the success of goat farming as opposed to sheep farming. Goats are easier to manage than sheep as there is no crutching or drenching required. The farmer’s main priority becomes fencing again. Since the 80’s the sheep population has declined from 160 to 70 million. Australia is the world’s largest goat exporter with 90% leaving their shores, yet Australia places is 32nd in the world in goat population.

New Zealand’s Chief Executive of Fish & Game Bryce Johnson gave an excellent presentation on New Zealand’s position of angler and hunter controlled fish and game management in New Zealand. Making us once again the envy of Australians.

General public perception plays a part not only in harvesting acceptability, but also firearms use. There were some lessons learned here that become quite relevant to New Zealand scenario’s where public perception needs altering. Theme’s from the conference speakers identified many issues but very few answers. A survey held in Australia asked “Do you believe hunting or shooting of animals for recreation is acceptable”. A very low 26% answered “Yes” leaving 74% answering “No”. The question was then followed up with another “Do you believe fishing for recreation is acceptable?”. 79% answered “Yes” and a low 21% answered “No”. Making it very clear that both forms of harvesting food have very different public perceptions of acceptability.

The word “incentives” echoed through many presentations. Incentive to preserve, to hunt, to sustain, to use private land to do this with. Incentive to the public, socialisation of ideas and engagement.

Lots of thought provoking questions, with exchange of ideas by some very intelligent people.

Contacts made:
I met some very interesting people during our three days of conference. One such person is the Executive Director of Canadian Shooting Sports Association, Tony Bernardo. Tony and I have exchanged details and he is keeping us abreast of Canadian news via their newsletter. He is also open to exchange of information especially around the Canadian registration regime and its failures. The Board will need to present some questions to Tony and ask for specific information of him.

I also met members of the Australian Deer Association (ADA) and spent some time chatting with the National President David Voss. Dave is also on the Game and Pest Management Advisory Board. He is involved with Canberra Ministers who call him in to Federal Government to assist them with understanding issues.

A number of Hunting Guides with one in particular Clark McGhie from Northern Territories discussing his issues around health and safety and implications of shooting on someone else’s land and having unintentional incidents, not necessarily with a firearm. A pathway that we appear to be following down in New Zealand.

The place was filled with very knowledgeable and humorous speakers and delegates.

Formal meeting with SSAA:
Bill O’Leary and I had a meeting with SSAA representatives, President Geoff Jones, Bob Green, Tim Bannister and Kate Fantinel.

Bill gave SSAA an extensive update on NZDA and GAC matters.

Our Memorandum of Understanding promotes trans-Tasman competitions. Discussions were held on the reluctance of some NZDA shooters wishing to travel to Australia to compete. SSAA acknowledged this with understanding and knowledge around the issues. While not all disciplines are able to make the trip over the Tasman to shoot at (say) the Pacific Regional Shooting Championships there are still a few making the effort. I mentioned Service Rifle attempting to field a team to compete in Australia in November 2016 in the PRSC bolt action champs. Also the NRANZ Fullbore involvement in PRSC competitions.

A brief on range development and certification requirements with a discussion on NZDA and SSAA keeping in touch on the matter.

I asked SSAA to share any information they have on the registration of firearms regime not working in certain States, specifically Victoria. Any statistics they have on criminal possession and illegal use of firearms that they can share with us. I’ve since followed this up with an email.

I’ve also asked for images of firearms destruction that they may have in their media files so that we may display at shows.

SSAA expressed their concern at their Federal Government making noises about implementing pistol grip restrictions on firearms in Australia. I gave a summary of what had occurred here a few years back and committed to share our information on this. I advised SSAA about COLFO’s involvement in the pistol grip changes including our successful recommendations to Police when grips and stocks were originally being assessed for eligibility.

SSAA are signing a Memorandum of Understanding with South Africa Sporting Shooters Association and asked us if we would like to be involved in a Tri-Nations MOU. I’ve tabled this request for the next Executive meeting and have asked SSAA for further documentation to share with the Board.

It was a productive meeting where we covered a lot of ground in a short space of time.

The next meeting with SSAA will be held in New Zealand at a date yet to be confirmed.

I have thanked SSAA for their hospitality both personally and in writing since our return. I enjoyed the company of Bill O’Leary as fellow COLFO delegate both during the conference and the social occasions afforded us.