Two men were reported to be illegally hunting in NSW’s biggest natural tourist attraction, the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.
Blackheath bushwalker Darren Trew said he came across the hunters on a canyoning trip with friends on Saturday June 15. Over that weekend 500 runners from across the state had converged in that same region to participate in the second Glow Worm Tunnel Marathon, near Newnes.
“It’s madness,” Mr Trew, who saw the men with their weapons and reported the matter to Lithgow Police, said.
“It was quite a shock to discover after 20 or more years of bushwalking. It’s quite disturbing, they said they were hunting deer and I told them they were not allowed to be here with rifles, it’s illegal, I called the police and they walked away.”
Mr Trew’s group took a photo of the men (whose faces the Gazette has pixellated for legal reasons) and said later that day about 20 people turned up to enjoy Tigersnake Canyon.
Glow Worm Tunnel Marathon race director Sean Greenhill of the Wentworth Falls based Mountain Sports said he was very concerned by the reports.
“It’s extremely disturbing to think that two men with rifles were hunting in a national park only a couple of kilometres from where 500 runners were conducting a legitimate activity in the same park — odds are small but the potential implications are horrifying. Mountain Sports doesn’t support hunting in any national park — why create such a dangerous precedent?”
Mr Trew said he also reported the incident to the Game Council and National Parks.
Justin McKee, National Parks Association of NSW spokesman, said the incident highlights that Premier Barry O’Farrell’s promise that safety will be paramount, “does not definitely rule out the risk of illegal hunting in highly visited areas, including those where hunting is not allowed like the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area”.
“Hunting in national parks is bad policy, it’s bad for tourism, public safety and the environment. It ruins the international reputation of our national parks brand that has taken 50 years to build up,” Mr McKee said.
“Unfortunately, some hunters have heard ‘you can now hunt in national parks’ and assume it’s a free-for-all.”
A spokesman for Environment Minister Robyn Parker said the minister didn’t normally comment on operational issues but “obviously hunting in national parks is illegal and an investigation is ongoing”.
But at the time of going to press Lithgow Police could not confirm whether an investigation was underway.
A photo of the hunters was uploaded on a popular Blue Mountains adventure company’s Facebook site with mixed responses.
Frank Weiss commented “just as some idiots drive well over the speed limit does it mean ALL CAR drivers are acting illegally and dangerously?”.
“Don’t judge the majority of responsible hunters based on minority poachers — remember hunting has been going on in state forests for a very long time — and I doubt hunting will be open in all NP like the scaremongers are trying to have you believe.”
Blue Mountains MP Roza Sage “strongly recommended” reporting these incidents to Blue Mountains NPWS, adding heavy penalties applied for illegal hunting activities.