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Appeasing interest groups at Majjistral Nature Park

The government has appeased one group by extending hunting hours, but has angered others

The Majjistral Nature Park near Manikata was established in 2007. After years of discussion, a decision was reached to allow hunting until 9 am, later extended to 10 am.

A compromise was reached. Hunting and trapping is not compatible with people going for nature walks at the park, including children. Hunters are disturbed by visitors rambling through their hunting paths, and visitors are annoyed and unsettled by hunters and trappers.

But on 27 October this year, the government decided to extend autumn hunting hours to 12.30 pm. The Majjistral board and management was against it, and no public consultation was held. But the government went ahead.

The government has appeased one group, but has angered others. It may have calculated that there are more hunters (and their families) who will be satisfied, than people who care about visitors at the park.

An online petition against this move obtained a large amount of signatures, but has been ignored.

Partit Demokratiku MPs Godfrey Farrugia and Marlene Farrugia took a brave stand and put forward a motion in Parliament to reverse the decision to extend hunting hours at the park. It was debated in parliament this morning.

During the sitting, PL MP Robert Abela unfairly insisted that they were both trying to make hunters ‘pack their bags’ and push them out. Both vehemently denied this. Quite rightly, as they had said nothing of the sort. Instead they mainly emphasized that 10 am was already a good and workable compromise, which enabled everyone to use and enjoy the park, including hunters.

Now many people (with the majority now living in urban built-up areas) will in effect be excluded from enjoying the Park most mornings of the week in autumn. The government is favouring an interest group to the detriment of the rest of the public.

One of the government MPs went a step further and called for a representative of the hunting lobby to be appointed on the Majjistral board.

But besides hunters and trappers, plenty of other interest groups also use the park, including the tourism sector, schools, farmers, ramblers, horse-riding groups, and more. Will they all have a place on the board too?

Government MPs used the word ‘extremist’ in connection with eNGOs. One emphasized that hunters are great environmentalists. But the contribution of eNGOs to managing natural areas for the public (and so much more) was barely acknowledged and certainly not emphasized.

In fact, eNGOs try make natural, green areas like this open to the public (and to not be taken over by special interest groups).

Besides the two PD representatives, the PN Opposition was indecisive and silent during the debate. They did not participate fully, only weakly calling for more discussion.

The legal notice extending hunting hours has already been in force since late October. Don’t they have a single, clear opinion between them to share with us?

A strong stand is desperately needed in our parliament. Today, only Marlene Farrugia and Godrey Farrugia were capable and willing to stick out their necks, and to take a tough and sound environmental position. And well done to them. petracdingli@gmail.com

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