FERAL pests could be hunted in Queensland state forests if a bid to introduce recreational shooting permits if successful.
Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto is pushing for a three year trial of conservation hunting in forests across the state to target species including pigs, cats and deer.
Mr Dametto has sponsored an e-petition on the matter, which has attracted almost 7000 signatures in just weeks.
Mr Dametto said it was an easy decision to sponsor the ground-breaking petition after being approached by its creator Daniel Boniface in August.
“Hunting has long been a favourite pastime in North Queensland where feral pig populations have run rampant for years,” Mr Dametto said.
“There is a strong sport shooting fraternity across the state and I am thrilled the petition has gathered so much support in such a short space of time.”
Mr Boniface said there were “very limited opportunities” for thousands of Queensland sport shooters to enjoy hunting as many do not have access to privately held rural land.
“I chose State Forests for this petition firstly because feral pests are a huge problem there but also because State Forests serve as an effective refuge and breeding ground for feral pests in a mixed matrix of land use,” Mr Boniface said.
“Hunting on public land is a legitimate pursuit that is already in place in other eastern states. The scheme that I am proposing would ideally mirror that which has been safely in place in NSW for seven years.”
Mr Dametto said the petition’s proposed conservation hunting trial made sense on a number of levels.
"The lock it up and leave it approach" to State Forests taken by government has allowed feral animals such as pigs and cats to explode in population, wreaking havoc on the environment and our native wildlife in State Forests,” he said.
“If the State Government refuses to properly maintain their forests and parks, then allowing recreational hunting is a good solution to keeping a check on feral species.”
Mr Dametto said feral pigs in particular were a major environmental concern in North Queensland as they are known for spreading diseases such as the deadly Panama Tropical Race 4 which has the potential to destroy banana plantations in the region.
“I believe the economic and tourism benefits of recreational hunting offered by the NSW scheme could be replicated in Queensland, combined with an environmental benefit of helping to eradicate feral animals, such as pigs,” Mr Dametto said.
The petition remains open until February 24 next year, and requires 10,000 signatures before it can be debated to parliament.
“I think it’s entirely possible we’ll get to 10,000 before the closing date which would be fantastic and allow us to trigger a worthwhile debate in parliament on the merits of conservation hunting,” Mr Dametto said.
He will also consider developing the petition’s proposal into a bill to be put before parliament.