Political stalling gave Royal family more hunting time in nature reserve: report
The Ministries of Agriculture and Economic Affairs deliberately dragged out legal proceedings against the closure of the Het Loo nature reserve, delaying it by more than a year, Fauna Protection, which launched the legal proceedings, told Zembla. "This achieved that the Royal family and their hunting guests could continue to hunt undisturbed for two hunting seasons while retaining an illegally granted opening subsidy for the closed hunting grounds around Het Loo Palace," Fauna Protection said.
Early in 2020, Zembla revealed that the King received a subsidy of 4.7 million euros for maintaining the nature reserve around Het Loo. An essential condition for that subsidy is that the reserve must be open to the public at least 358 days a year. But the Royals close the nature reserve every year from September 15 to December 25, allegedly to go hunting inside.
Fauna Protection filed an objection with the Ministries, demanding that the nature reserve be opened to the public for the required days or the subsidy be repaid, Zembla reports. The objection was filed in April 2020. According to the law, the Ministry has six weeks to decide on an objection. But Fauna Protection only got a response five months later, in September 2020. The Ministry rejected the objection and said Fauna Protection could appeal at the court of Amsterdam.
The wildlife protection fund did just that, only to discover that the Ministry sent it to the wrong court. The court has no jurisdiction and referred the case to the Trade and Industry appeals Tribunal in December, again delaying the case by four months. The Ministry received the appeal in May 2021 and, according to the law, must submit a statement of defense within four weeks. That did not happen until the end of August.
Early this month, Fauna Protection received a letter from the Ministry stating that it no longer has a "legal interest" in the objection because the hunting season and the annual closure of the Het Loo nature reserve are now over.
"They used a very clever tactic," Peter Nicolai, administrative law expert and the lawyer representing Fauna Protection, said to Zembla. "We went to court. They first sent us to the wrong judge. Then they responded much too late. And now they say: you are no longer an interested party, because the subsidy period has now expired." He called it "improper management." "This is just stalling to keep the King out of the wind. It's a ridiculous course of action. The goal: to derail things so that the King can do his thing."
In response, the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature, and Food Quality acknowledged to Zembla that the procedure did not go well. "This state of affairs may not meet expectations of a new governance culture," the Ministry wrote.