New regulations extending hunting hours at Majjistral Park “are illegal,” the Majjistral Heritage Parks Federation stated.
Made up of the three NGOs, Din l-Art Helwa, Gaia Foundation, Nature Trust Malta, the Federation that manages the park said that it is calling into question the legality of the new legal notice of the 27th October which extended the hunting and trapping hours to 12.30 pm and 2.30 pm respectively.
It pointed out that these were issued without the mandatory period of public consultation and thus go against the Environment Planning Act and the Aarhus Convention regarding environmental information to the public and public participation in the environment decision making process.
The Federation, in its representations submitted in accordance with article 55 of the Act, stated that the new regulations have not taken into consideration the earlier compromises made with the Ministry of Environment both in 2009 and in 2013 which regulated the hours and established them finally at 10am.
The Federation in its letter sent to the Minister of Environment, Sustainable Development and Climate Change, and to the CEO of the Environment and Resources Authority, it said that the decision “to favour a handful of hunters over the public’s freedom of enjoyment of one of the few remaining green spaces in Malta was detrimental to society, to young persons and nature lovers who now can no longer use the park in the better hours of the day without seeing birds killed and trapped for sport.”
The Federation added that it has spent many years working to introduce the park and its natural and historical features to the public at large, to visitors to the islands and to the young.
“The young are always in need of exposure to their natural environment, are very impressionable at that stage in their lives, and absorb so much that is new to them,” it said.
The Federation remarked that, “it is clear that such impressionable young persons cannot be expected to share the same space at the same time with hunters, and it is indeed very traumatic for a child, or a class of children to suddenly see a bird being shot out of the sky.”
It went on to point out that there is also the safety issue, “as hunting accidents have been known to take place, even when there are very few persons around, and it would be tragic if a nature park with so many visitors were to be witness to such an event should a child or adult on an excursion be injured or worse. In such case, who would shoulder the responsibility?”
Furthermore, stated the Federation, “the extension of hunting has virtually shattered all that formed the basis of agreements between park management and the hunting community, which agreements were working well with hours restricted till 10am.”
“The new regulations have now made it impossible for visitors and the young to properly enjoy the park in the most popular months and hours during spring and autumn and during school periods available for such excursions,” it said.
According to the Federation, “it has effectively resulted in a substantial loss of public freedom to enjoy the park without pressure of hunters and means that it is now impossible for the park to be developed to its full sustainable potential, even economically, not just as a park, because this simply cannot be done if hunters roam the area after 10.am.”
The Federation goes on to state that all this was “fully understood by the Government appointed Park Advisory Board, which at its last meeting held to reconsider its position voted unanimously against the extended hunting times. Disregarding the advice of the Government’s own advisory board has effectively turned the park into a glorified hunting reserve masquerading as a nature park.”
The Federation concluded by requesting the Minister and the ERA to take heed of its representations, to immediately suspend the amendments that were carried out without public consultation and to revoke the regulations in order to once again limit any form of hunting to 10.00am.