Duck hunters unlikely to return to Winton Wetlands

By Simon Ruppert

Recreational hunter Simon Webster has been lobbying to have duck hunting returned to Winton Wetlands.

«« His pleas, however, are unlikely to see its return with the Winton Wetlands Committee of Management giving several reasons why. »»

“I come from a duck hunting background and before Winton Wetlands, Lake Mokoan and Winton Swamp was an epicentre for duck hunting tourism,” Mr Webster said.

“The area used to annually generate millions of dollars in income from tourism, now it is costing the state.

“People in the Benalla area have almost no public land they can go and hunt ducks, after Winton Wetlands Management Committee excluded hunting.

“Let traditional recreational activities again be included rather than excluded at Winton Wetlands.

“This is a 24 000 acre public reserve. Surely there is room for hunting to occur ... like it always had been for generations to enjoy?”

Winton Wetlands chief executive officer Daniel Basham said there were a number of reasons duck hunting was unlikely to return to the area.

“Duck hunting was an activity that took place in the days of Lake Mokoan,” Mr Basham said.

“I believe the water authority at the time stopped duck hunting in the 1990s except for a one-year trial.

“So duck hunting was stopped long before the creation of the Winton Wetland Reserve.

“Legally the reserve is governed by the Crown Land Reserves (Winton Wetlands Reserve) Regulations 2010.”

That document (regulation 23) contains a provision that specifically prohibits hunting in the reserve.

“This was endorsed because of public safety concerns, and duck hunting didn’t correspond with the reserve's ecological-restoration values,” Mr Basham said.

“(For duck hunting to return) the Crown Land Reserves (Winton Wetlands Reserve) Regulations 2010 would need to be changed.

“This would need support from the committee, DELWP and the minister’s office, but I would imagine it would become much more complicated and political.

“(So) current belief is that duck hunting will not return.”

«« "The Winton Wetlands Committee of Management have made the following statements to Field and Game;

“The WWCoM over the next few years will continue to focus on the renewal the Wetlands whilst developing the economic, social, educational and research opportunities.

“At this moment within the Mokoan Project the Committee does not believe that a proposed hunting trial is a priority and hope to review the FGA proposal in three years’ time." »»

Mr Webster said he believed some members of Benalla Rural City Council were also backing the return of duck hunting at Winton Wetlands.

«« Council, however, would not confirm this. »»

Mayor Danny Claridge «« released the following statement. »» said "council has no formal position on permanent duck hunting at the Winton Wetlands".

“The council supported a managed trial for game bird hunting, but has not seen any report or findings from that trial,” Cr Claridge said.