IT’S all systems go for the inaugural HuntFest at Narooma, now that Eurobodalla Shire Council approved the licence for the event.
The South Coast Hunters Club on the weekend met with the chief executive officer of the State Government authority, the Game Council NSW.
Chief executive Brian Boyle and his marketing manager Greg McFarland personally travelled down from their office in Orange in the Central West on the weekend to personally visit the site and meet with organisers.
Mr Boyle said the Game Council has been following progress closely as they saw the event as an important opportunity to raising the profile of hunting.
As the agency responsible for licensing and assessing the state’s hunters, Mr Boyle said HuntFest was a natural fit.
“This is a great initiative to build awareness of conservation hunting and to educate the hunting and non-hunting communities about safe hunting practices,” he said.
“Hunting has been a cultural part of NSW for more than 40,000 years, this is nothing new.”
South Coast Hunters Club is planning the event to be educational with various stalls held by hunting and outdoors affiliated business, as well as government agencies such as the Game Council and Fisheries Department.
There will also be a photographic and DVD competition, but there would be no guns or weapons on display or for sale.
Both the club and the council see the event as bringing visitors to Narooma from all over the region and state.
“This is not just about hunting but we are saying to people come to Narooma for the festival but then stay for a round of golf, go and check the sights, go out on a charter boat and enjoy our region,” club president Dan Field said.
“HuntFest has the potential to give our Shire a much needed boost in a time of the year when tourism is slow.
“This together with the ongoing benefits of firearm and hunting education is not only good for our Shire but the general public as well.
“HuntFest is eco-tourism practiced at its best. This was a vote for common sense by the councillors who were in favour of an event that was all about education and conservation”.
The community is still however divided on the concept of a hunting festival with several individuals and groups speaking out against hunting.
Five people spoke against the event at council but it was approved with only Greens councillor Gabi Harding voting against.
The Narooma Chamber of Commerce was approached for support back by the hunters club in the early planning stages.
Chamber president Matt Deveson said his organisation was remaining neutral because of concerns the event could be controversial and did not fit in the “nature coast” ethic.
Despite the recent controversy about hunting in national parks, which organisers is totally irrelevant, they highlighted the event was not about getting hunters to come and shoot in this region, because this area was not known for its hunting.
The application came just a controversy reached state level with State Parliament approving hunting in national parks and with another incident of kangaroos being targeted by arrows up at Durras last week, hunters still have some work to convince the community of its benefits.
The club is quick to point the festival and national parks are not related at all and member Alan Millar noted the club’s members mostly went out west to hunt ferals such as goats and pigs.
Leading hunting body GameCon says the event will bring together a range of hunting interests, including a photo and video competition, game meat sampling, hunting and fishing information, and industry products.
GameCon spokesman Douglas Shupe said HuntFest, a dream achieved by the South Coast Hunters Club, was believed to be the first event of its type to be held in Australia.
And he said the council decision to give HuntFest official status was a lesson to extreme environmentalists.
“There was opposition from hard-line greenies, what else is new, but council stood its ground and recognised that there was genuine support for HuntFest from the local community,” Mr Shupe said.
“Reasonable people understand that responsible, licensed hunting is an acceptable activity that can also be important for the rural economy.”
Mr Shupe said HuntFest would attract not just hunters but their entire families and eventually should grow to be a sold-out weekend for Narooma motels, restaurants and clubs as the festival becomes established.
“From the Sydney area alone, there will be many hunting families already looking forward to next June and a pleasant trip to enjoy Narooma’s attractions as part of a weekend of celebrating the sacred art of hunting,” he said.