The West

Parks chief could let hunters in
Challenges: Director-general of the Department of Parks and Wildlife Jim Sharp. Picture: Danella Bevis/The West Australian

The new boss of WA's premier environmental agency has given qualified support to the idea of hunting inside conservation areas, saying it could have merit in the right circumstances.

Appointed last week as director-general of the Department of Parks and Wildlife, Jim Sharp, in a rare interview, spoke about the challenges and opportunities facing WA's environment.

Mr Sharp said getting people to connect with the natural environment was one of the department's biggest tasks amid increased urbanisation and the pervasiveness of technology.

There were also significant threats to the State's world- renowned biodiversity, including the scourge of introduced pests such as foxes and cats and the devastating plant disease dieback.

Asked about moves to introduce licensed recreational hunting on public lands as a means of helping to deal with the feral animal threat, Mr Sharp said he was not necessarily averse to it.

Shooters and Fishers MLC Rick Mazza has succeeded in getting a parliamentary committee to look into the idea, which is allowed in Victoria and NSW.

Mr Sharp said "there would be settings where you would not countenance it", including in national parks visited by big numbers of people every year and near urban areas.

However, he said hunting in conservation areas could have an environmental benefit, provided there were proper safeguards in place and it targeted feral animals, noting the department sanctioned professional hunters to do the same job.

Mr Sharp's rise to the top of the department comes more than 12 months after he took over on an acting basis from his predecessor and close friend, Keiran McNamara, who died after a short illness in March last year.

Mr Sharp said he would look to carry on much of the work embedded or started by Mr McNamara, including an increased focus on bushfire fighting that stemmed from the disastrous 2011 Margaret River fires.

The West Australian

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