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Featherdale Wildlife Park - Extract from Legislative Council Hansard of 17/10/96

The Hon. J. F. RYAN
[4.45]: Honourable members may recall that during the last sitting week I raised a number of matters relating to the enforcement of wildlife regulations by the enforcement branch of the National Parks and Wildlife Service and I made particular mention of the Featherdale Wildlife Park at Doonside. In addition, my colleague the Hon. R. S. L. Jones addressed a question without notice to the Minister for the Environment about the same matter. I named a number of people and tabled a wad of documents which confirmed that for over 20 years the manager
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of Featherdale Wildlife Park, Mr Bruce Kubbere, had been protected by senior officials of the National Parks and Wildlife Service from being prosecuted for failing to keep proper records, failing to report the deaths of about 50 koalas, illegally selling protected birds that he had no licence to keep in the first place, obtaining koalas from the wild and falsifying records to pass them off as being captive breed exhibits.

I said then and I say again that none of these well-documented allegations has brought the slightest response from the Minister or the National Parks and Wildlife Service. I interpret that lack of response to mean that no response is possible because no legitimate answer is available to the questions which I have raised in this House. If the senior officers involved think that this issue will just go away they are greatly mistaken. I have plenty more material and I will keep raising this issue until I get a satisfactory response. The constraints of time have prevented me from raising all these issues at once, so I will continue this process until all the story is out and a satisfactory explanation is given.

Today I refer to the actions of both Taronga Zoo and the National Parks and Wildlife Service in selling or giving protected birds to Mr Kubbere after they had been seized from Allan Parmenter, a bird smuggler. I have a schedule of birds which were taken from Mr Parmenter on 29 July 1987. By leave, I table that document. I understand that it was, and still is, the policy of the National Parks and Wildlife Service to seize illegal wildlife and return it to the wild as soon as practicable. The operation in 1987 against Mr Parmenter netted 68 birds. I want to know why 22 of those birds were either given or sold to Mr Bruce Kubbere rather than being released to the wild. I want to know why the National Parks and Wildlife Service even considered selling any protected wildlife to Mr Kubbere, given his previously well-documented poor record in keeping appropriate records and in selling protected wildlife without a licence.

In view of Mr Kubbere's record, giving protected birds to him was about the equivalent of giving chickens to Colonel Sanders. Besides the concerns that I have raised today I wish also to put on the record that I have spoken to at least two employees - and I have the name and contact details of another former employee of Mr Kubbere - who claim that they were physically harassed by an associate of Mr Kubbere as a means of intimidating them and preventing them from giving evidence to authorities. At the time that an investigation was being carried out into Mr Kubbere's koala handling procedures three former employees of the Featherdale Wildlife Park received either personal visits or threatening phone calls from a person called Marty Fiarugia, an associate of Mr Kubbere. Both people have the same interest in collecting protected birds.

In one instance, Mr Fiarugia, this bird-collecting colleague of Mr Kubbere, visited the family of a former Featherdale employee while he was away giving a statement to the Department of Agriculture in Orange. Mr Fiarugia paid a second visit to this employee and threatened to shoot him if he continued to give evidence to authorities. The employee was so concerned that on two occasions he reported these incidents to the police. This evidence has been available to National Parks and Wildlife Service officers but, to the best of my knowledge, they have never interviewed the people concerned. I ask again: why has Mr Kubbere been given such special treatment by the National Parks and Wildlife Service? Why has it not taken action against him when it has sufficient evidence to prosecute? Why did it sell Mr Kubbere protected wildlife in view of what was known about him? When will the National Parks and Wildlife Service respond to these serious concerns?

Extract from the Legislative Council Hansard of 17/10/96 - Corrected Copy

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