NSW government is under pressure over kangaroo extermination as leaked documents uncover issues about the sustainability of the program

Ashley Neill has been shooting kangaroos for 40 years.

Today he runs a facility outside of Hay in rural New South Wales, processing carcasses for the multi-million dollar pet trade.

He said he operates by a strict code of commerce but not everyone obeys the rules – and now it is time to talk about the “dark side” of kangaroo shooting in NSW.

“Kangaroos were a livelihood for me,” said Neill.

“I agree that they must be killed because of the white man [came] out here and build watering holes where they weren’t before. But make it human. “

Two reasons to shoot

Kangaroos are a protected species in Australia but can be lawfully killed under certain circumstances.

In NSW, grass breeders can apply for a license to shoot kangaroos on their own land where they are considered a pest.

Professional shooters also cull on behalf of landowners to feed a multi-million dollar commercial trade in kangaroo meat and skin products.

But both programs have come under fire after the industry’s first public audit in decades.

Liberal MP Catherine Cusack spent months researching kangaroo health as a member of the NSW Parliament’s Planning and Environment Committee. (abc news)

“I just thought this was an investigation into the sensitivities of the people,” said NSW Liberal MP Catherine Cusack.

“I am now completely 180 degrees away from my starting point.

“I am now seriously concerned that we have a major problem with the sustainability of this iconic species for Australia.”

Ms. Cusack sits on the NSW Parliament’s Planning and Environment Committee, which has spent months studying the health of kangaroos in the state in three public hearings.

“It’s pretty worrying to me that our kangaroos might be in such a situation,” she said at 7:30 am.

The investigation found that there were “serious concerns” about the National Parks and Wildlife Service’s oversight of kangaroo shooting by private landowners, “which is evidenced by the fact that they were unable to provide accurate figures on how many kangaroos are legal were killed “.

Exterior view of the Department of Planning, Industry and the Environment. A non-partisan parliamentary committee found there were concerns about the transparency and oversight of the commercial kangaroo harvesting program.ABC News: Tim Fookes)

The committee would like the Auditor General to assess whether the NSW government is complying with its own legal obligations under the Biodiversity Act.

He also raised concerns about the transparency and monitoring of the commercial program administered by the Department of Planning, Industry and the Environment.

But some evidence never made it to investigation.

Leaked documents raise police concerns

Internal documents leaked to the ABC indicate that the department’s own staff have raised concerns about the way the kangaroo management program is being monitored.

A 2019 audit found it was “impossible” to find out whether the number of kangaroo carcasses processed at various points in the industry chain was “true and accurate”.

“This is a significant finding as it … can undermine any position related to the legitimacy and sustainability of the industry,” the audit found.

Kangaroo report Leaked documents indicate that the department’s own staff raised internal concerns about the way the kangaroo management program was being monitored. (ABC News: Micaela Hambrett)

If commercial shooters fail to kill kangaroos with a headshot, this must be reported.

However, the audit found that 70 percent of the cases where this happened no compliance action was taken.

There were no license suspensions or prosecutions between 2015 and 2019, and reports of violations increased fivefold from an average of 50 per year to just 10 over the same period.

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The department declined an interview with the ABC.

In a statement, the ministry said it had issued 16 fines in the 2021 financial year.

Leaked emails from the department’s senior management show that 785 violations were reported by licensed pet dealers in 2020.

A notice of fines was issued to only one of them.

The department said in early 2021 it had introduced a new approach whereby licensees cannot renew their licenses unless their returns are up to date.

In a statement, a department spokesperson said its kangaroo management program includes “quotas, compliance, welfare and conservation” measures.

This ensures the “integrity and transparency” of the program and is confident that its scientific methods for estimating kangaroo populations are “robust and precise”.

Kangaroo Industry Association President Ray Borda said commercial trade is committed to transparency.

Ray Borda, National President of Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia, wears a cooking apron at the Tokyo Game Fair Ray Borda, National President of the Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia. (ABC News: Jake Striker)

He said it was the department’s responsibility to regulate the commercial program.

“The people who should be out there to check it out are the people who make the rules and regulations – that’s the Department of the Environment or safe food.

“If this information is not shared with us, there is nothing we can do about it.”

Landowner licensing program overhaul required

Ray Borda said there was no point just regulating commercial trade while farmers shooting kangaroos on their own land had more open slather.

“There are no audits and inspections, there is no traceability, there is no tagging, there is nothing,” he said at 7:30 am.

“So I don’t know how you can estimate how many animals are being taken, whether they have been taken humanly or not.”

Footage shared with ABC by a landowner in midwestern NSW in 2018 showed a farmer wounding a female kangaroo on the body with a joey visible in her pouch.

The eyewitness who filmed the encounter did not want to be identified, but said the farmer had dragged the wounded kangaroo behind his ute.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to search, up and down arrows to volume.Play video.  Duration: 37 seconds Eyewitness captures farmer who wounded female kangaroo in 2018

Ashley Neill said he saw this behavior from landowners as well.

“I’ve seen it with [my] own eyes: kangaroos with broken legs from shotgun, cannot hop, cannot get to the water, cannot eat, “he said.

“You can survive two or three days in the middle of summer.

“If they’re female, nine out of ten times they have joeys.

“They suffer a hell of a lot and die in agony.

“And they will starve and die of thirst.”

He said the landowner licensing program allowed cruelty on a large scale and needed revision.

“The old-style farmer, he doesn’t mind if a couple of Roos are hopping around his yard,” he said.

“If they have plague, they do something about it, which is understandable, because they have to make a living, just like everyone else.

“But in my opinion, many properties are not plagued.

“And they kill kangaroos to do it.

“I talked to the kangaroo management about it without any reaction.

“And that’s why I’m sitting here today to see if we can get an answer.”

“Nobody controls you”

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service is the agency responsible for prosecuting animal cruelty against kangaroos by private landowners.

It reports to the same department that controls the commercial program and reported to the parliamentary inquiry that it is not observing any culls to monitor compliance.

In the past 10 years, the agency announced that one animal cruelty case had been brought to court and five warnings had been issued.

Kangaroo at Menindee Kangaroos are a protected species in Australia but can be legally killed under certain circumstances.ABC News / Niall Lenihan)

“I don’t see how one can issue licenses to destroy animals and wildlife without a comprehensive management plan for the future of this species,” said Ms. Cusack.

“You can’t shoot a snake, but you can go out and knock 2,000 kangaroos over.

“You can do it as a social activity with all of your buddies in the back of trucks.

“And there’s no one to check you out, except likely worried neighbors who can see what’s going on and send reports to the department, which then appears to have no capacity to investigate.”

Grazier Leon Zanker disagreed that landowners resorted to cruelty.

Man wearing a blue shirt and sitting down. Leon Zanker says shepherds need to stamp out the kangaroo numbers because they are competing with the cattle for feed.ABC News: Jennifer Douglas)

“I absolutely reject the fact that this is common among landowners, I certainly know that,” said Mr. Zanker.

“They’re trying to highlight a very, very small percentage of what’s going on and make it disproportionate.”

The pastoralist from the western district has kept cattle, sheep and now goats on his property outside White Cliffs for the past 40 years and testified during the parliamentary inquiry.

“It’s not about annihilation or elimination,” he said.

“It’s just about managing the number of kangaroos to match the landscape’s ability to support them.”

Do you know more?

If you have a tip, contact [email protected]

Parliament’s committee has asked Environment Secretary Matt Kean to consider the recommendations of the kangaroo investigation before signing the next five-year plan for kangaroo management.

In a statement, the minister’s office said it would act after carefully examining all the findings and recommendations of the report. This answer is due in April 2022.

Ms. Cusack wants the department to be relieved of responsibility for managing kangaroo populations in NSW and for the “overall governance framework” to be “reconsidered”.

“We clearly need to realign our policies because the idea of ​​losing this species of kangaroo and wallabies is just terrible.”

Check out this story tonight at 7:30 a.m. on ABC TV and iview.

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