Call for sanctuary

A bid to have duck shooting banned near Cairn Curran Reservoir at Baringhup is gaining support.

A bid to have duck shooting banned at Cairn Curran Reservoir near Baringhup is gaining support.

Environmental community groups say the activity is no longer appropriate for safety reasons and the area should be made a sanctuary for the threatened species that call it home.

The groups have written to Mount Alexander and Central Goldfields Shire Councils seeking their advocacy for the move, following a community petition held in May to ban bird shooting in the area, which obtained 483 signatures.

Mount Alexander Shire Council voted in March 2019 to advocate for a ban of duck shooting at Cairn Curran.

Karen Mander, a spokesperson for Regional Victorians Opposed to Duck Shooting, said two wetlands in Mildura were closed to shooting in 2019 for safety reasons – without 483 signatures – paving the way for Cairn Curran Reservoir manager Goulburn-Murray Water to make the same call.

“It’s disappointing that GMW appears to be ignoring community sentiment, the safety risks and adverse impacts,” Ms Mander said.

“Since its construction, Cairn Curran now has many more residents living in proximity, and many more people keen to enjoy the amenity. The adverse impacts to community are clear, as the comments on the petition show.”

But GMW water storage services general manager, Martina Cusack, said GMW provided access to the reservoir for “various recreational pursuits”.

“This aligns with the intent of the Victorian Government’s Water for Victoria, which sets the direction for managing the state’s water resources and acknowledges competing demands on the state’s waterways,” Ms Cusack said.

BirdLife Castlemaine District, Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club and Friends of the Box Ironbark Forests co-signed the letters from RVOTDS inc to the shire councils, seeking their support to pick up the fight.

“We understand council can’t ban it. We are asking them to lobby those who can, and represent ratepayers and other recreational users who want a safer, more peaceful public amenity,” Ms Mander said.

In the letters was a link to a short video of some of the species in the region and a full 26-page list of community’s comments. The petition was also sent to Maree Edwards MP who the group hopes “will heed the clear sentiment from her voters, and assist”.

Economically, Central Goldfields and Mount Alexander Shires were two of 10 LGAs noted as having the least, if any, economic contribution from hunters in a government study published in 2014.

Meanwhile ongoing polls show most visitors avoid areas where there is shooting, while birdwatching is rapidly gaining in popularity.

Year ending December 2019, more than 1.4 million tourists birdwatched around Australia, and spent $2.88 billion. More domestic overnight tourists birdwatched than visited the Great Barrier Reef, and the number of international tourists who birdwatched was more than double those who fished (Tourism Research Australia – National Visitor Survey).

“Less than half of one per cent of the population, that is only 25,000 people, are licensed to shoot ducks. Only about half that number again actually participate in the activity – (GMA data),” Ms Mander said.

“But there are anywhere between 8000 and 35,000 public waterways – no government authority has been able to quantify it for us yet – where they can go to shoot birds.

“Surely Cairn Curran could be handed back to the local residents and the 99.98 per cent of the non-shooting public to enjoy in peace.”