Deer to be shot as part of statewide cull
A SECRET plan to treat deer as pests and allow anyone with a gun licence to shoot them has been drafted by the state government. It could be introduced as early as this month.
In a bid to control an exploding deer population in NSW, the government is planning to gazette a new regulation which would ease shooting restrictions on the animals, making it easier for farmers to eradicate them.
The Daily Telegraph understands the plan was backed in cabinet on Monday night and could be introduced as early as this month.
Deer are now found in 17 per cent of NSW - up from 8 per cent in 2009 - and are even encroaching on places such as Port Macquarie and Wollongong, where beach lifeguards were forced to attempt to rescue drowning deer last week.
Deer are also a growing problem in drought-affected areas where the animals compete with cattle for water and feed.
But the plan - which will be applauded by farmers - will also politically wedge the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, whose MPs have been heavily lobbied for years by game hunters who want to retain exclusive rights to shoot deer.
Currently, the shooting of wild deer in NSW requires a game hunting licence. There is an exception allowing a farmer to shoot deer on their property, however this is not sufficient for farmers to manage the problem - they often need assistance to cull in numbers, which is prohibited at the moment.
The Daily Telegraph understands the proposal to remove the game status of deer was developed by NSW Nationals' Adam Marshall who was made agriculture and western NSW minister in March. He refused to comment.
The regulation will need to go through the upper house where the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers hold two votes. They will be pulled in different directions by their constituencies, with farmers in favour and hunters long opposing treating deer as pests.
But deer are now so populous they are being referred to by some as the "bin chickens of the bush".
The Invasive Species Council, a non-government environmental lobby, has been pushing for more stringent controls of deer, which it considers the worst emerging vertebrate pest concern for NSW. Council boss Andrew Cox said deer were in plague-like proportions.
"It's an anachronism to have the protection for deer, which was put in place when deer numbers were low," he said.
"People on the land have had enough. We could have avoided the plague we have now by eliminating them sooner but the needs of hunters were always held as being more important."