Farmer refused gun with more ‘grunt’

A North Queensland cane farmer plagued by feral pigs has lost an appeal against a refusal of a licence for a semi-automatic weapon to help him eradicate them.

Daniel Messina applied to Queensland Police Service (QPS) Weapons Licensing in 2021 for a Category D weapons licence for a semi-automatic rifle, arguing it was necessary for culling the animals damaging his cane land and crop.

QPS rejected the application, stating Mr Messina’s existing licence entitled him to use category A, B and C weapons suitable for the task.

The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) this month confirmed that decision, concluding there were no special circumstances under Section 4(a) of the Weapons Act 1990 (Qld) for QPS to allow the granting of a Category D licence.

In his decision published on Friday, Member Howe described how Mr Messina had been born on a cane farm, had worked directly in the cane industry for most of his life, and had held a weapons licence for about 30 years.

He said Mr Messina owned four cane farms with large mortgages and worked full-time as a Grower Relationships Manager for Queensland Sugar to meet current financial liabilities.


Mr Howe noted Mr Messina had provided letters of support from State MP Shane Knuth and Federal MP Bob Katter, who both pointed out that feral pigs posed a constant and increasing threat to agriculture, especially cane farming in far North Queensland.

QPS did not contest that claim, rather the claim that a Category D weapon was required to effectively control the pests.

“Mr Messina says he needs a large bore centre fire semi-automatic rifle to cull them when they emerge from the high cane and move out into the open areas of the farms, the harvested paddocks and fallow fields. His best opportunity to cull them is when they congregate in the open fields in mobs of between five to 10,” Member Howe said.

“That means however they will be some distance from him. Because they are at a distance, a Category C weapon (shotgun) is of little use. He adds somewhat as a non sequitur that a shotgun is also of little use to him in the tall cane where the pigs often hide. The cane is very dense and they cannot be seen. That means one must get very close to them to use a shotgun and that can be very dangerous. He says pigs become particularly aggressive when searching for food and will regularly charge a person.”

Mr Howe said Mr Messina had tried many other methods but maintained none of them had worked.

“He says he has tried trapping pigs, but they are smart and avoid traps. He has engaged people that he describes as weekend hunters to shoot pigs, he has tried hunting with dogs, and the local canegrower association has hired a professional shooter to cull via helicopter. The last was expensive, however, and not a feasible option for him. He does not agree with baiting because it also endangers other animals such as cassowaries,” he said.


QPS contended various Category A, B and C weapons would be suitable for the task.

“Amongst them are a lever action shotgun with a magazine capacity of less than five rounds, a straight-pull bolt action shotgun and a linear repeating firearm where follow up rounds are chambered for firing by way of a release button after a shot is fired. QPS says these weapons allow for rapid follow-up shots. Many are available with integral tube magazines or detachable magazines which allow for quick reloading,” Mr Howe said.

“Mr Messina disagrees. He says using a large calibre semi-automatic rifle will allow him to discharge up to 25 shots in rapid succession. That will mean he can eradicate a large number of pigs all at once. He claims there is a delay between shots with each of the weapons suggested by QPS.

“It seems clear that a semi-automatic rifle will reload faster than any of the alternatives suggested by QPS in the sense of number of shots able to be fired over a specified number of seconds. But rapidity of shot is why the use of semi-automatic weapons are so strictly controlled, far more so than the other weapons for which Mr Messina is already licensed.”

Mr Howe preferred QPS evidence that to achieve sustained effective control over the feral pig menace, ground shooting should be used after initial reduction of pig populations by aerial shooting and/or 1080 poisoning.

“Mr Messina does not propose to use any of the primary control methods suggested. As such I find his prospects of successful control of his local pig menace using only ground shooting to be poor,” Mr Howe said.


He concluded he was not persuaded a Category D licence was a necessary occupational requirement for the farmer.

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