Walkers pay price for hunters

At risk ... Pam Campbell, Gillian Mountwinter and Nigel Weaver at Lane Cove National Park.
At risk ... Pam Campbell, Gillian Mountwinter and Nigel Weaver at Lane Cove National Park.

BUSHWALKERS will pay the price of the state government's decision to allow amateur hunters into national parks through increased insurance costs to reflect the risk of being shot.

The insurance broker to the state's 55 biggest bushwalking clubs confirmed to Fairfax Media that public and private liability costs would inevitably rise as a result of the added risk - confirmed by the government's own risk assessment - that someone could be killed once shooting of feral animals begins in March.

The broker, Marsh, said insurance companies would think twice about offering cover or ''load the premium'' for walkers.

The risk of bushwalkers and national parks staff being killed or seriously injured was rated as ''major'' by an internal risk assessment produced by Premier Barry O'Farrell's own department and leaked to Fairfax Media last month.

Representatives of the 30,000 bushwalkers who belong to clubs say they will explore possible legal recourse, including a class action against the government.

The state's biggest bushwalking club, the National Parks Association, said it fears its insurance bill - estimated at $30,000 a year - could double or more as insurers price the risk of paying out for the worst case scenario of a shot walker.

In New Zealand, where hunting is allowed in national parks, a school teacher, Rosemary Ives, was shot dead at a camp site in 2010 after a hunter "mistook her for a deer".

Kevin Evans, the chief executive of the National Parks Association, said the deal to allow hunting in an initial 79 parks with the Shooters and Fishers Party - whose two MPs hold the balance of power in the NSW Parliament - was ''absurd'' and the bushwalking community's objective would be to see the law repealed.

But the association would also fight against having its members pay the price of the law through higher insurance costs.

"We will certainly be seeking advice on what our options are for legal recourse," Mr Evans said.

NSW Environment Minister Robyn Parker said insurers should fully consider the final risk mitigation strategies.

"Insurers should look closely at the detail of how the program will be controlled and managed in 10 per cent of parks in regional and rural NSW, as well as the safe operation of similar programs in Victoria and South Australia," Ms Parker said.

"The final details of the program have not been finalised and it would be very disappointing to see insurance for community-based bush walking groups rise unnecessarily because of Labor and the Greens' scaremongering."

Dodie Green, the president of Bushwalking Australia, which negotiates the cover for state bodies such as the Confederation of Bushwalking Clubs NSW, which in turn covers individual clubs, said rising cost of insurance would decrease membership and potentially discourage people from joining.

"The cost of insurance is always an issue," she said. "The cheaper we can keep it the more inclusive clubs can be. Higher membership fees could be one less reason to sign up."

Bushwalker Gillian Mountwinter, who joined a group in Lane Cove National Park on Saturday, said: "NSW voted for the Liberals, but we got the Shooters Party instead."

This story Walkers pay price for hunters first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.