Narooma's HuntFest cancelled but new event may be in the offing

While opponents of the now-defunct Narooma HuntFest are celebrating its demise, organisers say they are working on something to replace the controversial June long weekend event.

The Stop Arms Fairs in Eurobodalla (SAFE) group have campaigned against HuntFest for six years and celebrated the news that it had been canned at the opening of a photographic exhibition. President Allan Baxter said the organisation would like to think it had played a role in the event's demise.

However the South Coast Hunters Club said the decision to hand back their venue licence to run HuntFest was purely a business one. The event licence did not expire until 2022.

Club president and HuntFest coordinator Dan Field said SAFE did not influence the decision.

"They had no impact on the event, and any suggestion is an out-and-out lie," Mr Field said.

He said the licence was handed back due to a decline in exhibitors as the event struggled to compete with bigger shows across the state.

"When we first started HuntFest there was us and only one other show in NSW; now there's approximately nine and most of them are much bigger than us," he said. "We would run into this problem every year, so we thought the best thing to do, is to hand the licence back.

"It was strictly a business decision."

Narooma Huntfest organisers Allen Millar and Dan Field, of the South Coast Hunters Club.

Narooma Huntfest organisers Allen Millar and Dan Field, of the South Coast Hunters Club.

Mr Field said the event was a success over the years, injecting about $5.5 million into local businesses and donating almost $20,000 to community groups.

"HuntFest was about bringing tourists to town at a quiet time of the year and educating them about hunting," he said.

Mr Field said the venue licence was handed back close to two months ago.

"Why council didn't publicise that fact, is beyond us," he said. "They (the council) had pushed us for answers the whole way, asking if it was going to be on and if we were handing the licence back.

"We had a huge meeting and we did hand it back. We are confused as to why council didn't let anyone know."

Eurobodalla Shire Greens councillor Pat McGinlay shared the news of HuntFest handing back its licence at a photographic exhibition at Gallery Bodalla on June 8.

"It is now open for other parties to apply to run events in future years at the venue in question," CrMcGinlay said.

The annual photographic exhibition, Animals in the Wild, is traditionally held on the same weekend as HuntFest.

Before naming the winners at the exhibition, SAFE president Allan Baxter welcomed the demise of HuntFest.

"It's excellent news especially now when we're celebrating our wonderful native wildlife here at Animals in the Wild," Mr Baxter said. "We'd like to think that SAFE has played a role in the demise of HuntFest which we see as a celebration of hunting and killing animals.

"This announcement is a triumph for our theme of shooting with a camera, not a gun. What a great success."

Greens MP David Shoebridge said the cancellation of HuntFest after years of local and international opposition had made this year's photo competition the best so far.

"We began Animals in the Wild as a positive way to campaign against HuntFest which we are glad to see has been cancelled, following years of community pressure," he said.

Animals in the Wild exhibition opening with Tess Poyner of Dalmeny, Margaret Craig of Tuross Heads, Susan Cruttenden of SAFE, Greens MP David Shoebridge, photographers Julie and Leo Armstrong of Tura Beach and Eurobodalla Shire Greens councillor Pat McGinlay. Photo: Gillianne Tedder.

Animals in the Wild exhibition opening with Tess Poyner of Dalmeny, Margaret Craig of Tuross Heads, Susan Cruttenden of SAFE, Greens MP David Shoebridge, photographers Julie and Leo Armstrong of Tura Beach and Eurobodalla Shire Greens councillor Pat McGinlay. Photo: Gillianne Tedder.

Mr Baxter said: "The very popular people choice award attracted around 150 entries which would suggest we had an attendance of more than 200 people over just two days".

"That's how popular this exhibition has become."

In response to SAFE's comments on the cancellation of HuntFest, Mr Field was "disappointed" and indicated the celebrations may be premature.

"It's an absolute disgrace they are cheering for the loss of an event which brings so much money into the community," he said.

Mr Field hopes another event will fill the voidleft by HuntFest over the June long weekend.

"The Animal Justice Party did put a tender in," Mr Field said. "Their tender stated, if they had that weekend they would get approximately 10,000 people to the first event, create over 40 full-time jobs and start a number of TAFE courses in the area, and involve the whole town.

"SAFE, the AJP (Animal Justice Party) and Greens MP David Shoebridge supported their tender endlessly, so we would expect that to happen and we are happy to help them."

Mr Field said the hunters club would support any event that brought tourists to Narooma.

As for another hunting show or event in the future, Mr Field said the club was "working on something".

"We are working on an event to be held around the same time of year which will promote safe hunting and bring tourists to Narooma," he said.

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