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Victorian Kangaroo ‘Harvest’ Management Plan 2024-2028

Life on land

“The reason that Victoria began exploiting Kangaroos for commercial gain was Victoria was needed to top up dwindling take in other states. Justification from the Victorian Government was, we are helping farmers mitigate damage, so now out of desperation they are going into public lands”.

Peter and Andrea Hylands

December 22, 2023

We became aware that the Commonwealth Government of Australia had circulated the Victorian Kangaroo Harvest Management Plan 2024-2028 for comment on 16 November 2023.

The commercial exploitation of Kangaroos in Victoria has nothing to do with mitigation of harm, but everything to do with commercial gain. There has been a fivefold increase in the killing rate of Kangaroos in Victoria since the Kangaroo petfood trial commenced in 2014. This has occurred despite many claims from senior Victorian Government Ministers that there would be NO increase.

The plan should not be signed by the Commonwealth Government Minister for the Environment (we don’t want a repetition of the NSW debacle where despite extensive evidence from a parliamentary inquiry that the NSW Plan should not be signed, it was), instead a full investigation should be undertaken in relation to the claims made in the Plan and other related documents, including, but not limited to, the annual Kangaroo Harvest Quota Reports for Victoria and the population estimates and surveys that inform those reports.

It should be noted that the report reviewing the Kangaroo Pet Food Trial has been removed from the Wildlife section of the Victorian Government’s website. The findings in this review still stand as little has changed. This report should be part of the information provided to the Environment Minister prior to making any decision on the new Victorian plan.

Commercial exploitation of protected wildlife on public lands

Under no circumstances should the commercial exploitation of Kangaroos, protected Australian species, be allowed to occur on public lands in Victoria.

The attempt at extending the commercial exploitation of Kangaroos to public lands in Victoria as the only short term way of sustaining the exploitation. With Melbourne suburbs out (from 2025), commercial exploitation of Kangaroos, given steep population declines on private land, will no longer be viable without the inclusion of public lands. Apart from the substantive destruction of Kangaroo populations in Victoria, which will likely include State and National Parks in Victoria, this change is extremely dangerous to the general public who use Victoria’s parks for recreation and to enjoy and learn about the natural world.

As Ramsar sites and other wetlands have been substantially captured by duck shooters in Victoria, the commercial exploitation of Kangaroos is also likely to have a chilling effect on the use and safety of public lands. High powered rifles, the use of suppressors and the general public do not mix.

After years of trying, commercial interests have already been successful in accessing parks in South Australia, to approve this in Victoria will provide these commercial interests with further justification to extend the commercial exploitation of Kangaroos to the public lands of Queensland and New South Wales, a disaster for Kangaroo populations.

Wildlife killing in Victoria’s National Parks has been very significant, Kangaroo populations in the three Mallee National Parks are now so depleted that Kangaroos are very hard to find. Given this, it seems absurd to imagine that these precious places in which Australian wildlife should be safe, can continue to sustain the commercial exploitation of Kangaroos in the state.

The terms used, 'harvest', 'humane', 'sustainable' and many others are designed to mislead the public, are disingenuous and a product of years of creating marketing 'think' and spin. We get the same nonsense in every state in Australia.

The Plan 2024 to 2028

The new ‘Plan’ continues to make claims that fly in the face of any evidence provided to the Victorian Government. Nor does it consider the numerous submissions by the general public to the Victorian Government’s consultation on this matter who do not agree with the commercial exploitation of wildlife in the state. Nor did we receive the courtesy of an acknowledgement from the Victorian Government for our hard work.

“Over 700 submissions were received during this process”. Victorian Government

Extreme cruelty extracted on all Kangaroos, the young joeys suffer terrible deaths of decapitation and blunt force trauma

The new plan makes some major changes (highly predictable) which make monitoring of circumstances and comparisons with the past much more difficult. The ‘plan’ makes a number of claims which are not and cannot be correct. The first is its overarching goal:

“To provide for the sustainable and humane use of Grey Kangaroos in a way that is both sustainable and protects the welfare of all animals involved”.
“This goal aligns with the objects of the EPBC Act and is guided by the principles of ecologically sustainable development through conservation, and ecologically sustainable use of a natural resource, as defined in the Act. The key priorities of this Plan are to ensure sustainable Grey Kangaroo populations and that any killing of Kangaroos is humane to minimise pain or suffering”.

There are 8 aims:

  1. Ensure that commercial Kangaroo harvesting in Victoria is ecologically sustainable;
  2. Ensure that commercial Kangaroo harvesting in Victoria is conducted according to animal welfare standards;
  3. Ensure that commercial Kangaroo harvesting activities are effectively regulated;
  4. Effectively monitor and enforce compliance;
  5. Work with Traditional Owners to identify opportunities for involvement;
  6. Facilitate research and development;
  7. Maintain accountability and transparency; and
  8. Undertake program review and reporting.

We know the population estimates are far too high but still the Victorian Government persists:

“Ecological sustainability of Kangaroo harvesting is managed based on statewide Kangaroo population survey data, population modelling, sustainable harvest principles, and other available information about grey Kangaroo populations throughout their Victorian range. Management approaches for sustainability also include considerations regarding Harvest Zones, control of kangaroos through ATCWs on public and private land, animals killed by vehicle collisions (where data is available) and impacts of emergencies such as flooding and fire”.

Changes to shooting zones

“Harvest Zones for 2024: For the period of 1 January 2024 to 31 December 2024 the state is divided into 7 Harvest Zones. Harvest Zones are based on ecological units and, at the time of publishing, existing local government area (LGA) borders. Metropolitan (Central) Melbourne and areas with minimal or no Kangaroo populations such as French Island, are not included in shooting zones. Annual commercial quotas will be set for each Harvest Zone”.

New shooting zones will be introduced in 2025

Major changes aside from boundaries appear to be Melbourne suburbs out, State and National Parks and other public lands in.

These changes are a clear indicator that Kangaroos have been so depleted in some parts of existing shooting zones and that state parks, which should be a place of safety for protected Australian wildlife, are required to keep this ill-conceived activity alive. These changes also reflect the intent to move this gruesome and cruel conduct away from the public gaze.

There will be five (not seven) new shooting zones for 2025-2028 and Victoria will be divided into 5 shooting zones and one exclusion Zone. The Victorian Government states that:

“The new shooting zones are based on consideration of a number of factors including areas with minimal or no Kangaroo populations, Melbourne urban growth boundary, ecological units, approved levels of control under ATCW, take through the KHP, and at the time of publishing, existing local government area (LGA) borders. The majority of take in the previous Mallee Harvest Zone (Mildura) was undertaken on public land through the ATCW system, hence Mildura has been included in the Loddon Mallee Harvest Zone. If public land managers require access to the KHP, this will be provided for as a separate quota, but included within the total quota as direct replacement for ATCW numbers as described below (see Public land and separate quota section below). The Exclusion Zone is extended to include Melbourne Central Business District (CBD), outer suburbs and urban growth corridors, Port Phillip and Western Port Bays, Mornington Peninsula, the Dandenong’s, and the Western Grasslands”.

Commercial activity in State and National Parks and other public land. ‘Public land and separate quota’

When mass killing of wildlife occurs in State and National Parks in Victoria the gates are locked and the activity occurs during the night and out of the gaze of the general public. Since 2014, since the commercial exploitation of Kangaroos commenced in Victoria, then as a trial, we have predicted they would make a move on State and National Parks. This is a deeply shocking and unethical change. Note that they use the term public lands and do not mention State and National Parks, nor Ramsar sites and other wetlands which may be a sanctuary for Macropod species.

“All Kangaroo control on public land currently occurs under ATCWs which are issued to the relevant public land manager. Public land managers can be required to produce a wildlife management plan that identifies the required scale of control to support an ATCW application. Under special circumstances, on the request of the relevant public land manager, harvesting may be authorised to occur on specified areas of public land.
Harvesting that occurs on specified public land will be provided for with a separate quota outside of the released commercial quota for each shooting zone, but still incorporated into the total quota for that year. Any harvesting that occurs on specified public land will directly replace control that would otherwise be undertaken under an ATCW. As the specified separate quota will still be factored into the total quota, harvesting on public land will not increase the total number of Grey Kangaroos approved for control. A wildlife management plan will be required before a separate quota allocation is given for harvesting purposes. Where the quota for harvesting of Grey Kangaroos on public land has been required, it will be outlined as a component of the total quota and included in the KHP Annual Report”.
“In early 2023 I spoke to the rangers in the Hattah who told me that the population estimate for that park was currently 4,000, they also added they did not believe that number (as it was a gross over-estimate). I was told to go to the local airport if he wanted to see any Kangaroos. By 2017, the number of Kangaroos they managed to kill in Mallee National Parks was less than half of that of the previous year. The rangers also told me that there would be no target for Kangaroos in those parks in 2023. We now need a proper understanding of just how few Red Kangaroos and Western Grey Kangaroos now remain in these three Mallee National Parks. It looks as if they may have been killing, not 10 per cent which they claim to be sustainable, but as much as 50 per cent of the remaining population. How many left? Not many is the answer”.

That the Victorian Government allowed shooting with high powered rifles (and using silencers which adds another dimension of danger) and butchering of protected wildlife (dismemberment) in Melbourne’s suburbs was shocking and extremely dangerous.

Prey switching: Red Kangaroos will be next on the commercial list of things to add to keep this vile trade afloat

In 2025 the most dangerous places to be, will be on public lands in Victoria. Typically the government shuts down (closes the gates) National and State Parks when it conducts mass killing of protected species in those parks. There will be many places in the state and in public places that exclusion is unlikely to occur.

Code, compliance issues and broken promises

Compliance is at best poor, with monitoring of the commercial exploitation, which in itself is a dangerous task, at very low levels. These standards do not meet community expectations, nor the claims made by government about the standards being met.

Complaints, particularly from property and business owners, impacted by the unannounced killing of Kangaroos during the night, shooters using high powered rifles and spotlights, and in the case of Victoria, often on their property boundaries, is very distressing and disempowering, as residents and business owners have no rights in the matter.

Complainants are treated very poorly by government employees and are subjected to abuse.

We have attempted to meet with the Victorian Government Labor Environment Minister since 2014 without the courtesy of a proper response. We have also been blocked from attending meetings and media events, knowledge is clearly an unwanted commodity. Even the most horrible human rights abuses are ignored and the victims vilified.

There is an evident lack of transparency in relation to the commercial exploitation of Kangaroos in Victoria and information (even when requested by FOI) is increasingly difficult to obtain. This secrecy is likely an attempt to mask conduct that the government knows does not meet public expectation, nor the government’s own claimed standards when it comes to the management of the Kangaroo Harvest Management Plan.

We need to remember that in Victoria protected native species were a very long way from being safe in the parks where they should have safety.

We also need to remember that, despite spin from the politicians responsible to say there would be no impact, the impact of introducing a commercial trade in wildlife was a fivefold increase in the killing rate.

There is no money in this for Victoria, it is about asserting power over others, it is divisive to regional communities, terrifies residents and destroys amenity and modern business opportunities.

What is occurring negates usual legal requirements, as it is contrary to Australia’s EPBC Act in numerous detail. Where this grim exploitation of wildlife escapes the usual legal requirements are numerous and include:

  • Immunity from prosecution under animal cruelty laws;
  • Use of silencers or suppressors on high powered rifles, both dangerous as the public is unaware that shooting is occurring and likely to have an impact on accuracy;
  • Shooting during the night with no requirement to inform residents that is to occur (the Victorian Government’s GMA is currently running a campaign about the dangers of shooting at night);
  • Use of spotlights illuminating private property and shining through windows at night;
  • Kangaroos are butchered where they are killed and entrails, severed heads and other body parts are left in situ, likely contravention of local hygiene laws;
  • The inevitable weakening of food safety laws;
  • A significant diversion of funds away from proper conservation activities to support and protect environmentally destructive minority interests above all others;
  • Effective disempowerment of residents leading to loss of amenity, damage to existing businesses;
  • Disempowerment leading to significant and lasting impact on mental health, a concern totally ignored by the politicians and public servants who actively inflict this harm on others; and
  • Standards, charters and codes that apply to government departments and public servants.

Here is how two Victorian Ministers, Ministers of the Crown, responsible for upholding the EPBC Act in Victoria (and there have been a revolving door succession of them saying the same thing) describe what is occurring (quotes from 2019 and these individuals now have different ministries or constructed ministries):

Quote attributable to Minister for Agriculture Jaclyn Symes (now Attorney-General of the state of Victoria):

“We’ve listened to farmers’ concerns and that’s why we’re taking action to sustainably manage kangaroo populations and reduce waste going forward to the benefit of farmers and our environment”.

Quote attributable to Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio (now Minister for Climate Action, Minister for Energy and Resources and Minister for the State Electricity Commission):

“This decision is about the sustainable management of kangaroos in Victoria and ensuring commercial drivers don’t influence the current Authority to Control Wildlife system”.

How Victorian Government Ministers in the Labor Party can describe protected Australian species as waste or believe what they are doing is sustainable (when they have been told for nearly a decade that it is not) and a basic tap on a calculator would confirm their suspicions, can only be described as unconscionable.

Kangaroos are a powerful indicator of the way we view the world and the standards we apply in law and humanity. Kangaroos are an intrinsic part of Australian culture and society, as they have been for 65,000 years. Even post 1788, the colonists adopted them as a visual and cultural icon, today, their imagery is everywhere. Kangaroos belong, as they have belonged for 20 million years, as part of this continent. Not exploding in population, but ever diminishing, Kangaroos deserve better and so do we all.

Gobbledygook

The following claims in the plan fit the narrative of exploitation and are improbable at best:

CLAIM: The Eastern Grey Kangaroo is believed to have expanded their range inland westwards, due to the increase in watering points for sheep and cattle.

Comment: Among many reasons why this is likely to be incorrect, and one claim from the Victorian Government we think is correct, is that, in relation to duck shooting the government claims there are fewer ‘watering points’ today and for what remains we can thank the duck shooters. This reduction is due to large areas of land being drained for agriculture. You would need to be a very brave Kangaroo indeed to try to access a farm dam in Victoria.

CLAIM: The Western Grey Kangaroo has a lower abundance than the Eastern Grey Kangaroo, and although its range seems to have increased in recent times, the extent of this increase is unknown.

Comment: Given the industrial scale killing of this species in all Eastern States, including Victoria, in Victoria the Western Grey Kangaroo looks to be in trouble and should be removed immediately from any idea of exploiting the species commercially.

CLAIM: Since the European settlement, forests, woodlands, heathland and shrubland have been cleared to develop fertile lands for agriculture production, infrastructure, and new housing. As a result, populations of the three largest macropods, described above have increased.

Comment: Mathematical analysis tells a very different story , including this strange fact, one of the oddest features of the Victorian State data that set the quotas for 2023 is that Victoria (two species commercially exploited) is claiming a larger Kangaroo population than Western Australia (two species commercially exploited), a state several times the size of Victoria. We won't mention the fact that most Victorian landscapes are now devoid of Kangaroos and as a result, the Victorian Government will allow commercial exploitation of Kangaroos in its state and national parks, where they are already hard to find.