Environment and Communications Legislation Committee
Estimates hearings, 22 May 2012
Mr Peter Cochrane, Director of National Parks
Senator RHIANNON: What work do you undertake to ensure that national parks that gain World Heritage listing retain that listing?
Mr Cochrane: I am directly responsible for two national parks that have World Heritage listing, Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta. The broader question of other World Heritage properties is one for the broader portfolio and also the managers of those properties, which in most cases, if they are national parks, are actually the states.
Senator RHIANNON: Does that mean the Greater Blue Mountains National Park, which has World Heritage listing, does not come under your responsibility?
Mr Cochrane: No.
Senator RHIANNON: How disappointing. I was hoping we could pick that up. I am learning things. I want to move on to some issues that you spoke about earlier with regard to feral animals. You made the comment that your officers are registered to use firearms. You may be aware of the work of Sharp & Saunders. They have put out the numerous government standard operating procedures for feral animal control. They state that there are three essential requirements for pest control techniques—necessity, effectiveness and humaneness. They also recommend in general that ground shooting should be used only in a strategic manner as part of a coordinated program. I was interested in whether these procedures or something similar are followed by your officers.
Mr Cochrane: I would say, yes. We absolutely only control feral animals out of necessity. As I indicated before, we monitor populations of the ferals that we are most concerned about, such as pigs in Kakadu. Where their numbers get to a point where their impact is largely ecological but potentially in some cases like buffalo, if they potentially pose a threat to visitors or residents, we will act to remove them.
In terms of effectiveness, I understand I have some excellent officers in terms of firearms/shooting. Most of the officers who undertake this work have been in our park for a long time and they also work very closely with our neighbours and the other agencies, particularly in the Territory, that undertake this work as well. Often we will do collaborate work with them. Quite a few of our animals come from outside the park and, therefore, control measures outside the park are probably just as important to us as inside the park.
Senator RHIANNON: I was interested in exploring that as well. There have been reports—I have only seen these for New South Wales and Victoria—that sometimes feral animals have been released in areas so hunters can hunt those animals. I have read reports about pigs being released and also sometimes wild dogs being abandoned. There was a report of a deliberate release of piglets and juveniles by unscrupulous hunters in New South Wales recently. Is this something that you have made an assessment of? It is particularly relevant to the comments that you have made about the need to be controlling feral animals outside the parks as well, as clearly that could lead to an impact inside the parks.
Mr Cochrane: Most of the examples you provide out of New South Wales are not in our parks. We have no parks technically in New South Wales. We have one park in Jervis Bay territory, which abuts some of Jervis Bay National Park, and so we work very closely with the New South Wales Parks Service and the rangers down there collaborating on fox control, which is actually our biggest issue there. Foxes are baited rather than shot. In New South Wales we do not do any work ourselves of that nature. I am certainly aware of media reports and neighbours for a property that I own who talk about deer being released for hunting purposes.
Senator RHIANNON: But it has not come in the context of the work for your parks?
Mr Cochrane: No. However, I would have to say that in Kakadu a number of traditional owners on outstations maintain small populations of pigs for their own personal use, and there is always a risk that some of those escape into the surrounding park.
Senator RHIANNON: There have been some reports about proposals to use recreational hunters to kill feral animals. Is there a role for recreational hunters undertaking this work?
Mr Cochrane: I believe there would be a role if it was carefully managed. We do not use any recreational hunters in any of our parks. I am aware that in particular that is the case in Victoria. Parks Victoria has an arrangement with what I believe are called the Sharp Shooters. If those arrangements are well managed and they are undertaken in very close consultation with park staff, I believe they do have a place, but that would depend on the circumstances. I would have thought that that was probably not an option in parks that had heavy visitation, for example.
Senator RHIANNON: When you say that arrangements would need to be in place if such recreational shooters were to be used, what would you see that that would have to cover?
Mr Cochrane: It would have to cover how they went about what they were doing. I think the three criteria that you raised before of necessity, effectiveness and humaneness would be fundamental. There would have to be clear understanding of when and where the operation would take place. You would want to ensure the safety of people. You would also want to ensure that the impacts of people who were not park staff undertaking operations like that were managed carefully to minimise any impact on weeds or non-target animals, for example. I would imagine that something like that would be subject to either some memorandum of understanding or it may even be contractual.