During October 2010 the Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE (NMIT) applied for and received a 12-month permit from the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment for the Eden Park Kangaroo Cull – to cull 300 eastern grey kangaroos on its 320 hectare Eden Park Vineyard and farm and Northern Lodge equine stud. NMIT claimed that more than 1500 kangaroos were in competition for pasture, and damaging fencing, grapevines and netting.
The permit was issued under the Wildlife Act (1975) after NMIT commissioned wildlife management group Ecoplan to do an independent assessment which recommended a cull of 300 kangaroos each year for three years. The report by Ecoplan estimated 710 kangaroos were on the property, give or take 70, and suggested 900 kangaroos should be destroyed over three years. The report also recommended annual counts be conducted in June or July.
Some Eden Park residents and members of the Australian Society for Kangaroos immediately sought a review of wildlife culling and questioned whether non-lethal means of controlling kangaroo populations had been effectively tried.
In December 2010 the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment defended the decision to issue a permit to cull the kangaroos with a spokesperson saying that a build-up in the population of kangaroos may present a public safety risk around roads and urban areas, and that the cull was a last resort.
The cull met with opposition from residents, Whittlesea Council and members of the Australian Society for Kangaroos with protests and 24-hour vigils outside the Eden Park property.
In February 2011 Whittlesea Council voted unanimously to ask the Department of Sustainability and Environment to suspend the cull. Eden Park is classified as a rural property, which means that Council cannot control firearms use on the property through classification of the area as a populous place. Four of five local members of parliament called on the State Government to stop the Eden Park Kangaroo Cull.
In March 2011 protesters launched a round the clock vigil of the Eden Park property and threatened to physically intervene to stop the cull.
Criticism of the Ecoplan report and the kangaroo cull were made by Professor Steve Garlick from The Sustainability Research Centre at the University of the Sunshine Coast, who stated on 13 September 2011:
- As a specialist in kangaroo behaviour, environmental sustainability and higher education I reviewed Mr Walters’ report last December for the Australian Society for Kangaroos. My assessment was that the Ecoplan report provides no causal or supportive evidence to justify the significant conclusion it makes about the lives of kangaroos at Northern Lodge. It makes recommendations that are at variance with its own observations and remarks, is inconsistent with the learning values being advocated by the NMIT, and undertakes no benefit-cost assessment of other options. The report lacks analytical and ethical credibility and as a document that seeks to destroy the lives of sentient beings and their dependent young should be discounted as wholly inadequate and lacking moral foundation.
The Australian Society for Kangaroos commissioned consulting ecologist Raymond Mjadwesch from Bathurst to review the Ecoplan report. Mr Mjadwesch said the plan had been prepared to justify the shooting of kangaroos and “demonstrates no scientific method, no data, no considered analysis, and no evidence … the reviewer can have no confidence in the results or conclusions”, The Environment Minister and Department of Sustainability and Environment have not commented on the review of the Ecoplan report.