Australia famously rode the sheep’s back to prosperity in the golden age of the industry, but hunting has become a larger contributor to the New South Wales economy.
- Hunting was larger than the wool industry in New South Wales in 2019-20
- Shooters say the economic and environmental benefits of hunting are unrecognised
- Calls for professional shooters to help control feral pests
Statistics from the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) showed that in the 2019-20 financial year, hunting was worth more than $1.4 billion to the state’s economy.
Wool output in the same year was $1.09 billion, which the Department said was down six per cent year-on-year.
The NSW DPI estimated that in 2019-20 hunters spent an estimated $1,406 million on related activities and products.
That was down 10 percent on the previous 12 months and included a period of COVID-19 restrictions which stopped all hunting in NSW state forests for a month.
Professional shooter Brent Twaddle has been recreationally shooting for most of his life and has turned his passion into a profession by helping farmers control pests like rabbits, kangaroos and foxes.
He said the popularity of hunting was growing and it could be a major tourism industry for regional Australia, like it was in New Zealand.
“A lot of people will travel from the city to help the farmers out by shooting pigs or whatever and it’s something that’s really growing here.”
He said hunting was a great industry for the regions because it was moving money out of the major cities.
“When the guys are travelling out, they’re buying fuel, food and they’ve already bought ammunition.”
“So everybody gets a little lick of the ice cream,” Mr Twaddle said.
‘It could be more’
“The activity of hunting is a significant contributor to the New South Wales economy,” said Peter Whelan from the Shooters Union NSW.
Mr Whelan, who was also President of the Suns Shooting Club, said there were environmental and social benefits to hunting as well.
“Camping, bushwalking, sightseeing — some of us choose to carry a rifle when we go out with our mates,” he said.
The Suns Shooting Club membership was “steadily growing” according to Mr Whelan.
“From the farming point of view, it’s a great benefit to have people from city, licensed shooters, coming onto private property to help farmers [control pests].”
He said recreational shooters were also helping to control the feral cats, wild dogs and feral pigs in state forests.
Mr Whelan said hunting could be an even larger part of the state’s economy but there was a lot of negativity around the sport.
He said countries like America, Canada and France embraced the sport of hunting and benefited from the tourism.
Can hunters control pest numbers?
Deer, foxes and wild dogs have all become major pests on the New South Wales Central Tablelands.
Biosecurity officer with the Local Lands Services Paul Gibb said the changing demographics of landholders meant people were less involved in practices like culling, baiting and trapping.
“So there’s people that are buying parcels of land for the recreational opportunities, you know, motorbike riding, four-wheel-driving and recreational hunting, said Mr Gibb.
“And most people either aren’t aware of their obligations, or they choose not to participate in programs, due to their own set of beliefs.
“Its an unfair impost on them financially and emotionally, and it’s causing a lot of headaches.”
Mr Gibb said landholders who did not control pests were actually not fulfilling obligations under the NSW Biosecurity Act.
But he said pest management was “all about numbers” and recreational hunting was not the answer for pest management.
“Depending on the animal, you need to reduce their populations by up to 70 or 80 percent.”
Professional shooter Brent Twaddle agreed that recreational hunters alone could not control the state’s pest problems.
“Recreational shooters can’t control the number of animals that we can as professional contract shooters.”
Mr Twaddle said he would like to see some assistance for farmers to employ contract shooters on their properties.
“To help cover the cost of hiring the likes of myself to come in and eradicate pests would be a great help,” Mr Twaddle said.