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12 March 1991 - Current

Page 4670
12 December 2013
                      GAME MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY BILL 2013
                                 Second reading

  Mr WALSH (Minister for Agriculture and Food Security) -- I move:
  That this bill be now read a second time.
I  am pleased today  to  introduce legislation that  delivers  on the  Victorian
coalition  government's  commitment   to  improve  the   effectiveness  of  game
management and promote responsibility in game hunting in this state.
Members of the house will recognise that hunting, and in particular recreational
game hunting, is an important part of Victoria's cultural heritage, particularly
in rural and regional Victoria.

Generations of Victorian families have passed down the traditions and methods of

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hunting, often as part of broader experiences of camping and the great outdoors. Importantly, Victoria's approach to the sustainable use of wildlife populations, including recreational game hunting, is consistent with contemporary conservation management principles. It is also consistent with international conservation treaties and conventions. Today there are more than 43 000 game licence holders in Victoria, and the game hunting industry is estimated to generate around $100 million of direct and indirect economic activity for Victoria annually. This includes jobs in a range of industries and the flow-on effects of people travelling to regional areas where game hunting is permitted. Of course there are many more hunters involved in pest management activities -- contributing to the state's biosecurity efforts, and the conservation of Victoria's wildlife habitats. I have been heartened by the success of our wild dog and fox bounties. The response from hunters has been tremendous, and it illustrates the valuable role hunters can play in an integrated approach to pest management. With the growth in the popularity of game hunting, as well as the opportunity to enhance the contribution of hunters to game and pest management outcomes, it is the right time for government to provide a clearer strategic direction for the future. That is why, in October this year, I announced the development of a hunting and game management action plan to support and guide the long-term growth of the industry, and improve access to sustainably managed game resources. Like the coalition government's timber industry action plan, which has driven significant reform and improved outcomes for Victoria's native timber industry, I am committed to ensuring action is taken to enhance legislative, regulatory, institutional and service delivery outcomes for hunting and game management in Victoria. Of course, this cannot be achieved by government alone. A partnership approach -- across government agencies, hunting organisations, and business -- will be crucial for the success of the action plan. I thank all stakeholders who participated in workshops during October and November on the action plan, led by the Honourable Roger Hallam, chair of the Victorian Hunting Advisory Committee (HAC). The HAC will provide me with a draft of the action plan in early 2014 for consideration by government. The second component of providing a clearer strategic direction for the future is the establishment of the Game Management Authority. You may recall that as part of the 2013-14 state budget the coalition government announced an additional allocation of $8.2 million over four years to establish and operate a new Game Management Authority. This means that a total of $17.6 million will be spent on game management in Victoria over the next four years. This bill gives effect to that commitment by providing the legislative basis for a new, independent statutory authority to regulate game hunting and improve game management outcomes in Victoria -- the Game Management Authority (GMA). The new GMA will incorporate the functions currently undertaken by Game Victoria in the Department of Environment and Primary Industries. But this is not just a machinery-of-government change. This is about providing transparent and accountable governance to drive improved performance -- more effective compliance and enforcement of game hunting, and more collaborative approaches to game management. I turn now to the details of the bill. The bill includes the usual provisions to underpin a statutory authority's basic operations -- these provisions are broadly consistent with other Victorian statutory authorities, including Dairy Food Safety Victoria, Prime Safe and Sustainability Victoria. The bill outlines the objectives, functions and powers of the GMA. The GMA will be -- first and foremost -- a regulator. It will perform all the compliance, investigative and disciplinary functions related to game hunting in Victoria. Efficient and effective regulatory activities will be critical success factors for the new Authority. Good regulatory practice is essential to underpin confidence and facilitate growth in the industry. Consistent with good regulatory practice, I have ensured that the functions of the GMA do not conflict with each other -- a good regulator cannot both regulate and promote the industry. As such, the GMA will promote sustainability and responsibility in game
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hunting, however, it will not have an explicit role in promoting the industry. On behalf of government, I will retain responsibility for the development of statewide strategic policy for game management. The GMA will play a vital role in monitoring, conducting research and analysing the environmental, social, cultural and economic impacts of game hunting. The GMA will also work with public land managers to improve the management of public land and facilities on public land where hunting is permitted. By working together through meaningful and constructive arrangements, outcomes can be improved for all public land users, including hunters. The GMA will also develop operational plans and procedures that address: the sustainable harvest of game species; the humane treatment of species that are hunted and used in game hunting; minimising the negative impact on non-game wildlife including protected and threatened wildlife; and the conservation of wildlife habitats. The GMA will also influence game management outcomes through making recommendations to relevant ministers on: game hunting and game management; control of pest animals; declaration of public land open and closed to game hunting, open and closed seasons, and bag limits; and management of public and private land as it relates to game and their habitat. These are important roles for the GMA, and although it will not be the lead agency in respect of these matters, I anticipate that recommendations and advice from the authority will be influential in improving game management outcomes in Victoria. The bill establishes a skills-based board to oversee the strategic direction of the authority. Membership of the board will consist of no less than five and no more than nine members, including a chairperson and deputy chairperson. The bill requires that the board has an appropriate mix of skills, knowledge and experience to assist the authority to operate in a robust regulatory environment. I will seek to ensure that collectively members have expertise in a number of areas, including legal practice, finance, wildlife biology or ecology, animal welfare and game, and wildlife management. The bill provides that the CEO of the GMA will be appointed by the chairperson. To ensure the transparency of this process, the bill requires that the terms and conditions of appointment are to be approved by me on the recommendation of the board. The chairperson will also be the employer of all staff of the authority -- staff, including the CEO, will be VPS staff but independent of DEPI. Staff from Game Victoria will be transferred to the GMA with no associated job losses. The CEO will be responsible to the board for the day-to-day management of the authority. The bill requires that the GMA provide me with an annual report, including a financial statement and any information relating to its objectives and functions. I am also able to provide directions to the GMA, and these must be published in the annual report. For transparency and accountability, the annual report of the GMA will be tabled in Parliament. The bill also requires the GMA to prepare an annual business plan which sets out its objectives and priorities for the next three financial years, including its financial projections for that period and its budget for the next financial year. The bill also contains enforcement provisions which allow the GMA to appoint authorised officers to exercise powers and perform functions and duties for relevant laws. This is consistent with current authorisations of officers. The bill also includes a range of provisions and consequential amendments to transfer legislative accountabilities and associated decision-making responsibilities to the GMA. These provisions and consequential amendments only transfer functions that are required by the GMA to perform Game Victoria's current compliance and enforcement functions. All other functions remain with the secretary of DEPI. To complement the good practice governance arrangements contained in the bill, I will also provide three key administrative tools to support the efficient
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and effective operation of the Game Management Authority. These are: (a) an operating model for the incoming board which reflect best practice regulatory principles; (b) a statement of expectation between myself and the GMA; and (c) a memorandum of understanding/service level agreement between the authority and key partner agencies, including DEPI, Victoria Police and Parks Victoria. I am pleased to provide this bill as a key part of a clearer strategic direction for the future of hunting and game management in Victoria. I commend the bill to the house. Debate adjourned on motion of Ms HUTCHINS (Keilor). Debate adjourned until Thursday, 26 December.