TAXPAYERS may be forced to pick up the bill for an alleged illegal hunting expedition that has led to a police investigation and the suspension of two members of the Game Council.
The owner of a remote cattle station in central western NSW said police had advised she could claim up to $3000 for the incident on December 28, in which a feral goat was inhumanely shot on her property, apparently for its trophy horns, and a fence smashed.
Detectives of the rural crimes unit are investigating claims, revealed by Fairfax Media on Wednesday, the goat was shot by the Game Council's acting chief executive, Greg McFarland, and a companion after they broke a fence to enter the 10,000-hectare Karwarn station south of Cobar.
Mr McFarland and the council's head of law enforcement, Andy Mallen, were stood down by the Primary Industries Minister, Katrina Hodgkinson. Mr Mallen insists he was not involved.
Diane Noble, the owner of Karwarn, has passed evidence to police that the goat was killed by a shot to the gut in contravention of the council's own guidelines on humane, ''single shot'' kills to the head or heart and lungs.
Eyewitnesses, who will be interviewed by police, claim two men in a Game Council vehicle, who later identified themselves as Mr McFarland and Mr Mallen, crossed from the Yathong Nature Reserve near Mount Hope into Karwarn in pursuit of the goat.
Ms Noble said: ''I want the people responsible to pay for the fence and the goat.''
Depending on the results of the police investigation, that could be the Game Council. A council spokeswoman declined to comment.
The state government is under increasing pressure to abandon plans to put the regulation of hunting in national parks - due to begin on March 1 - in the hands of the council.
The National Parks Association, Public Service Association, representing national parks rangers and staff, and the animal activist group Voiceless want the council to be stripped of its responsibilities for issu- ing hunting lic- ences as well as monitoring compliance.
The RSPCA said it was opposed to any hunting for sport, no matter which body regulated it.
The Game Council, which gets a $2.5 million annual public subsidy, is dominated by appointees from pro-hunting groups, including the Australian Deer Association and the Sporting Shooters Association.
Ruth Hatton, of Voiceless, said the council's pro-shooting stance made it the wrong body to protect animal welfare and public safety and the recent incident underlined that view.