shooting at the Western Treatment Plant (WTP) Victoria

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Subject: shooting at the Western Treatment Plant (WTP) Victoria
From: "Peter Menkhorst" <>
Date: Fri, 8 May 2009 20:45:44 +1000
hello all
I know this issue has been pretty well talked out but I have been away all week 
and so didn't have a chance to respond earlier. For those who are interested I 
can provide some detailed site-specific background on the legality or otherwise 
of shooting along the foreshore of the WTP. Please note that I am not 
supporting or opposing shooting, I am merely attempting to clarify the 
situation. Ironically, the 2009 duck season finished about 2 hours ago - at 
dusk on 8 May.

This issue has been causing grief for some years and it is complex - the 
legality of shooting depends on where you are along that foreshore. Shooting is 
banned completely on the Melbourne Water property [WTP], but the seaward 
boundary of that property is the 'high water mark', so the beach is not within 
the WTP.  The beach, i.e. land between high water mark and low water mark is 
either The Spit Nature Conservation Reserve managed by Parks Victoria [all 
foreshore south west of the mouth of Little River around to the private land at 
the base of Point Wilson, i.e. including Kirk Point] or it is Foreshore Reserve 
managed by Dept of Sustainability and Environment [north-west of the mouth of 
Little River. Below low water mark is Port Phillip Bay. Shooting of game 
species can legally occur in Port Phillip Bay and on the Foreshore Reserve 
during the proclaimed shooting season. Shooting and damage to vegetation is of 
course illegal in a Nature Conservation Reserve.

The situation is even more complex because of the vague definitions of the 
boundaries of these different land tenures - how does one define high water 
mark in a saltmarsh, what is low water mark? DSE and Parks Vic enforcement 
officers seem to have taken the approach that if a person is standing in knee 
deep water and shooting away from the land then they are acting within the law 
and there is no power to stop them. It is, however, illegal to be in possession 
of a firearm within the WTP and the Nature Conservation Reserve so I would 
argue that shooters could only access the legal shooting area by walking 
seaward of the low tide level from the Beach Road boat ramp, which is public 

So that is my understanding of the legal situation - shooters can legally stand 
out on the mudflats and shoot game species further out to sea, they cannot 
shoot back towards the land. If south of the Little River mouth they cannot be 
in possession of a firearm above low water mark and they cannot break down 
saltbush to create hides. Therefore, the shooters that Paul saw had no right to 
be where they were - on the beach south of Little River. I am perplexed by the 
notion Paul says was conveyed by a Melb Water employee that anywhere within 30 
m of the water is OK - that makes no legal sense to me.

Note that a Melb Water permit gives you access to parts of the WTP, not to the 
beach as it is not WTP land. Access to the coastal reserve is unrestricted. 
Access to The Spit Nature Conserve Reserve is partially restricted - one needs 
a Parks Victoria permit to enter onto The Spit itself or into any of the 
saltmarsh and these are generally not given except for those participating in 
official management or monitoring programs.

Note also that nothing in the Ramsar Convention precludes hunting or otherwise 
using natural resources within a Ramsar site [e.g. fishing (another form of 
hunting)]. In fact it almost does the opposite by requiring the 'wise use' of 
natural resources. This is in recognition of the great value of most wetlands 
to the local humans - as sources of water, food, fibre and recreation. Duck 
hunting can legally occur on most of Victoria's 11 Ramsar sites, as long as it 
is considered to be sustainable.

I hope this leads to greater clarity and understanding on this issue - for when 
we have another duck hunting season.

Peter Menkhorst
member Western Treatment Plant Biodiversity Conservation Advisory Committee

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