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Mellieħa Local Councillor Rubbishes Hunter Lobby’s Invitation For Woodland Handover: ‘I’ll Be Protesting Instead’

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Mellieħa councillors and activists are furious at lack of public scrutiny for a controversial deal to grant hunters two major areas of woodlands, Miżieb and Aħrax.

“I was furious that we weren’t even consulted,” Mellieħa councillor Gabriel Micallef told Lovin Malta. “These areas form part of our locality. A lot of our residents complained, expecting some action from our side, but we were left powerless.”

Maltese hunters under the lobby group FKNK are set to take over management of the two Mellieħa woodlands… but major stakeholders haven’t gotten peak into the contents of the controversial deal.

In fact, councillors were only notified through an invitation by FKNK to attend its signing.

“To receive an invite on such short notice, five days before – it’s just not on. We were never consulted, nothing was presented,” the councillor said.

Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg, Environmental Minister Aaron Farrugia and parliamentary secretary Chris Agius will be some of the notable attendees on Sunday afternoon in the Miżieb woodlands car park.

“I’m not going to be present for the signing, but I will be there,” Micallef said, explaining that he expects other colleagues to join him. “I’ll be at the protest instead.”

Another Mellieħa councillor Ivan Castillo echoed similar sentiments about the secretive handover to hunters. 

“How can I ever accept an invite from an authority that treats myself and fellow councillors as well as the residents of Mellieħa with such disrespect! It is unfair that they feel they can do what they like without consequence and treat the people this way,” he wrote in a statement. 

“I cannot say I agree or disagree with anything I have not seen or been given the opportunity to give my input and ideas to ensure that it is in the best interest of all.”

Sources who spoke to the media in April uncovered the deal that would see Cabinet give the swathes of open, green space to hunters, who would pocket thousands to manage the land by controlling alien species and introducing nature wardens. They would be considered hunting reserves in return.

FKNK has long disputed claim over the land after an alleged letter in 1986 from former Prime Minister Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici but environmental activists insist they have no rights over the land.

These public spaces are some of the last areas of greenery in Malta and are used by people of all walks of life in Malta.

Lawyer Claire Bonello, representing coalition Spazji Miftuħa called the agreement a “disgusting, undemocratic and selfish” attempt to steal public land. She accused the Planning Authority and ministers of being accomplices to this.

Hunters were already permitted to use both areas as hunting grounds during open season, which stretches from the start of October to the end of January.

 Lovin Malta reached out to FKNK for comment, but has not received any response.

 

Yesterday evening I received an invitation to be present for the signing of an agreement on the Miżieb Woodlands as a…

Posted by Gabriel Micallef on Tuesday, 6 October 2020

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