Hunters’ Miżieb and Aħrax woodland deal challenged in court by NGOs

BirdLife, Graffitti, Din L-Art Ħelwa, Friends of the Earth, FAA and Ramblers Association file court case challenging FKNK guardianship for Miżieb and Aħrax woodlands

Malta’s hunters were given a formal agreement for control over two traditional hunting grounds in Mizieb and l-Ahrax, which are popular recreational areas for the Maltese public
Malta’s hunters were given a formal agreement for control over two traditional hunting grounds in Mizieb and l-Ahrax, which are popular recreational areas for the Maltese public

Six environmental organisations will be taking court action to challenge a government deed that granted the guardianship of the l-Aħrax and Miżieb woodlands to the hunting lobby FKNK.

Two separate, but allied court actions representing the parties were filed before the Tribunal for Administrative Revision.

Environmental activist and lawyer Dr Claire Bonello will be representing Birdlife Malta, Moviment Graffitti, Din L-Art Ħelwa, Friends of the Earth (Malta), Flimkien Ghal Ambjent Ahjar and Prof. Eward Mallia. Dr Joseph Ellis and Dr Martin Farrugia will be representing the Ramblers’ Association of Malta in this case.

“Taken collectively, the NGOs will be challenging the Lands Authority on a number of grounds,” spokesperson Ingram Bondin said. “The NGOs are claiming that the Authority has acted in an arbitrary, untransparent, discriminatory and unreasonable manner and that it has committed numerous procedural violations resulting in it acting outside its powers as established by law.”

Bondin said the irrelevant and improper considerations used by the Lands Authority to assess and award the concession will result in the public’s enjoyment of the countryside found in these sites to be curtailed for large swathes of the year, all to accommodate a minority of FKNK’s members.

In fact the NGOs assert that EU law was breached when the government failed to conduct any of the required studies in order to determine and evaluate the environmental impacts of such a large concession.

They also claim that EU law was also not followed when the public was not allowed to participate in the drafting of the resulting management plans due to the fact that the agreement was negotiated in secret.

The NGOs believe that the concession of these two areas for a the risible sum of €400 in order to entertain a pastime will also result in lost revenue which should have been accrued towards the Environment Fund.

The deed is also being challenged on the grounds that it requires the minister responsible for hunting – Gozo minister Clint Camilleri – to employ a number of  ‘conservation officers’ from the public purse who will then be managed by FKNK. It is being claimed that since a minister is not a public officer at law, he has no legal power to directly employ people into the public service for this purpose.

The NGOs are also claiming that the terms of the agreement encroach on public domain areas in contravention to Public Domain law and the Protocol regarding Coastal Zone Management.

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