FIRST PUBLISHED IN AVI-NEWS
AUTUMN 1995 pp. 14-15
A SELF SERVING BUREAUCRACY - THE NEW SOUTH WALES NATIONAL PARKS AND WILDLIFE SERVICE (NPWS)
BY RAYMOND HOSER, 41 Village Avenue, Doncaster, Victoria, 3108, Australia. Fax: +61 3 9857-4664
There is an old proverb that says "Self praise is no recommendation". It seems that key senior officials of the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), have failed to realise this. To make things worse a few half truths and lies don't seem to get in the way of NPWS arguments.
Typical of the tactics used by bureaucrats in this department is the full page advertisement taken out by NPWS on page 18 of the Sydney newspaper, The Sun-Herald on January 8th 1995. The advert, just one of many taken out at huge cost to the NSW taxpayer was nothing more than a blatant self-promotion exercise by NPWS. The ad stated that if NSW's wildlife could talk it would say "thanks" to NPWS for the job they were doing to save them and went on to say about NPWS "We're proud of the job we do...."
Pictured at the top of the advertisement what NPWS had captioned as "The endangered Corroboree Frog, the subject of a co-operative conservation programme", the clear implication being that NPWS were actively working to save this rare species. Now that really did grate on my emotions.
The reality is far different. You see since the mid 1970's NPWS officials, in particular those from licensing and law enforcement sections have actively discouraged research into and conservation of the State's frogs. This policy has also coincided with the rapid decline of many species including the Corroboree Frog. Some species are now believed to have become extinct during this period. While NPWS policies cannot be blamed for the declines in wild populations of most species of NSW/Australian frogs, the fact remains that their policies have significantly worsened the situation by preventing the establishment of captive breeding populations of threatened species. Captive populations are of course an insurance against unforseen extinctions in the wild. Furthermore such captive populations would have been eagerly set up by local frog enthusiasts AT NO EXPENSE TO THE TAXPAYER, if NPWS officials had done nothing other than leave these people alone. Instead the private keepers were effectively harassed out of existence. A similar picture exists in states such as Queensland, where frog species such as those of the genera Taudactylus and Rheobatrachus may no longer exist as a direct result of restrictive State Wildlife Authority policies and actions.
A similar situation exists with birds and aviculture. With various threats facing many native birds, the only hope for survival for many species could be captive breeding by aviculturists. There are too many examples for me to list here. Unfortunately instead of seeking to work with these dedicated individuals NPWS officials seem hell bent on harassing them out of existence.
Just recently a Dunedoo keeper successfully sued NPWS officials for the return of birds STOLEN by them. Besides the fact that the NPWS officials shouldn't have been stealing the birds in the first place, the wasted resources spent by both sides in legal manpower would have been better spent on the real objective ... that of saving birds.
An identical case is now before the courts in Sydney where a man is suing NPWS officials for the illegal theft of his snakes and their cages. A number of other herpetologists have already successfully taken action against NPWS for theft of snakes. Again I ask, is this really money well spent? Wouldn't it be more useful for NPWS officials to stop hounding conservationists and keepers and instead work with them towards common objectives.
It was recently disclosed that a single self-promotional advertising campaign by NPWS officials cost the taxpayer over $100,000 ... and this was just one of many. No wonder the extinction rate in NSW is one of the world's highest!
Three years ago, when myself and others approached NPWS officials to remove feral pest Tortoises (American Red-eared Sliders), an assistant director of NPWS wrote back stating that NPWS had no concern for the Tortoises or the damage they may cause to local wildlife. The cost at the time to eradicate the species was estimated at just $30,000.
Perhaps if NPWS spent more money on conservation and less on propaganda, everyone would benefit. After all, actions speak louder than words!
WHILE ROME BURNS...
During the Christmas break of 1993-4, much of New South Wales was in flames. Bushfires engulfed National Parks across the state and huge numbers of volunteers came out to battle the flames. Eventually over 90 per cent of the Royal National Park was blackened ... the worst fire in the Park's history.
So what were senior NPWS officials doing at the time?
While some, to their credit were out helping to fight the fires, it seems many were otherwise occupied. You see, it wouldn't matter if the world was coming to in end, nothing, it seems would disturb a public servant once they've taken leave. While an animal keeper knows their job is one that usually has no holidays, most wildlife bureaucrats aren't so encumbered.
There were some senior officers of NPWS working very hard over the holiday break. Unfortunately they weren't exactly helping the bushfire effort. Instead they were working on other things ... like putting out a defamatory media release. On 30th December 1993, NPWS officials in conjunction with then minister Chris Hartcher, put out a media release stating the Independent Commission Against Corruption ICAC had investigated the book Smuggled, and found all it's allegations against NPWS to be "false" and "baseless". The media release was totally concocted as ICAC hadn't investigated the allegations in the book. But since when have crooked officials worried about things like the truth?
To abbreviate a long story, what happened after this media release was put out, was that the "story" ran in all major papers. Then to ensure the "success" of the media release, NPWS officials leant on newspaper editors not to retract the story. This was after the newspapers found out they'd been mislead by NPWS. All this while the National Parks were still burning! Eventually the Australian Press Council directed all the major papers to publish retractions of the story based on NPWS's media release. This they did. Again it seems that NPWS officials are more concerned with playing the media game than actually protecting wildlife.
For the benefit of readers, it is worth noting that all information in Smuggled and it's sequel Smuggled-2 (due out late in 1996) can be verified as true and correct (all sources and documentation cited at the rear of Smuggled-2). Both books document a serious corruption problem in the NPWS and to a lesser extent other state wildlife departments.
THE RACE TO EXTERMINATE WILDLIFE.
While aviculturists work overtime to propagate wildlife, it seems NPWS officials are often working in the opposite direction. Some of many recent cases from NSW include the following:-
Former director of NPWS, Neil Shepherd, decided to intervene in a case where two people were charged with possessing an illegally shot Pelican. Both people were from a high profile "Animal Rights" group, and it was decided the case was too politically sensitive to pursue. Those same people advocated a banning on any wildlife in captivity. In other words, there is more than one law in New South Wales ... it just depends on who you are.
NPWS officials also decided not to prosecute some other people for illegally logging a State Forest which was habitat for the endangered Sooty Owl (Cryto tenebricosa). The reason that the people weren't charged was simple. They were fellow public servants. This time they were employed with the State Forests Department.
In 1994, NPWS officials came under fire for the way they decided to get rid of a tame Bush Turkey that had made it's home in a Central Coast backyard. Following a complaint from a north Avoca resident, NPWS Superintendent Alan Morris decided the best option was to shoot the bird. And so it was done.
In another incident, NPWS officials shot and killed a Lace Monitor Goanna (Varanus varius) in a National Park near Seal Rocks. The justification for killing this highly protected lizard was that some picnickers had complained about the lizard scavenging food from a garbage tin.
Also in New South Wales, former Minister, Chris Hartcher backed a NPWS campaign of removing feral wildlife. That in itself seems admirable enough. The only problem was that NPWS hadn't got the Department of Agriculture permits to do it. I don't advise Aviculturists to try the same thing!
Raymond Hoser has been an active herpetologist for about 30 years and published over 150 papers in journals worldwide and also nine books.
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