Times of Malta, 7 August 2009

The government has proposed that a representative of the Mellieħa local council sit on the board of the Majjistral Park, increasing the number of members from seven to eight.

A draft legal notice has been issued and will be open to public consultation for four weeks before coming into force.

Another proposal lays down a procedure that would give the board the final say on anything related to the park.

The board was recently divided over the issue of hunting. The three government representatives and its government-appointed chairman, Ian Castaldi Paris, voted to allow hunting to take place in the park from sunrise to 9 a.m. while the three NGOs represented on the board, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Gaia Foundation and Nature Trust were against the motion.

The board members are also split over an application to place a caravan site inside the park, with the chairman in favour and the NGOs against. Meanwhile, the Hunters’ Federation criticised the decision to ban hunting after 9 a.m. at the park, saying the decision was discriminatory. The federation said this was another move against hunters and trappers after the government had announced a blanket ban after 3 p.m. for two weeks during the season to protect birds of prey.

“This useless punishment, which is not an EU legislation requisite, is being imposed for the third consecutive year, contrary to what has always been recommended.

“The ban is simply being imposed so the government can accommodate foreigners who come to spy and police hunters and trappers,” the federation said.

It said it was confident that were all interested parties to discuss the issue, a satisfactory and reasonable solution could be found and it has written to Rural Affairs Minister George Pullicino about the matter. The Rural Affairs Ministry said the decision to disallow hunting after 9 a.m. at the park was taken because of the large amounts of locals and tourists visiting the park from then onwards.

“This decision cannot in any way be considered as an act against hunters. It is proof that the board of the Majjistral Park does not exclude anyone but gives room for everyone,” it said.

The nature and heritage conservation area in the northwest of Malta was set up in 2007.