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.
member Western Treatment Plant Biodiversity Conservation Advisory Committee
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