Pest animals: In our sights - NSW Nationals

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Pest animals: In our sights

With wild dog and deer numbers exploding, the NSW Department of Primary Industries is taking action.

Pest animals cost Australian farmers an estimated $1 billion in revenue each year and as part of its response to the Natural Resource Commission’s (NRC) review of pest animal management, the NSW Government has introduced a wide-range of reforms focusing on all areas of governance and encompassing the impending Biosecurity changes. 

Nine local government areas (LGAs) will have restrictions protecting deer as a hunting resource suspended. The suspension of game protection measures for hunters and farmers will roll out in the LGA areas of Tenterfield, Glenn Innes, Port Macquarie-Hastings, Liverpool Plains, Upper Hunter, Wollongong, Snowy Valleys, Bega Valley and Snowy-Monaro.

Increased hunting in these areas will help control deer numbers, which has experienced a population growth of 60 per cent in the past six years according to the Invasive Species Council. 

The new management strategy has been welcomed by Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall. Deer are an increasingly frequent sight in the area, with numbers particularly high around Emmaville and Copeton Dam – a recreational hub where the animals are a significant traffic hazard.

“These suspensions allow game hunting licence holders to hunt in ways that would otherwise be prohibited. Changes in the hunting season include: The use of spotlights or electronic devices; hunting of game fleeing fire or smoke; use of aircraft, watercraft or motor vehicles; use of baits, lures or decoys; or hunting at night,” Adam said.

Participating LGAs will be provided with a landholder and hunter register to allow better utilisation of licensed hunters in the fight against deer.

However, deer will be retained in Schedule 3 Part 1 of the NSW Game and Feral Animal Control Act 2002 maintaining their status as a game animal. Although keeping deer as a game animal is controversial, declaring them a pest in the past has not been useful in controlling numbers.

“Whether something is declared a pest or not hasn’t determined its success as being controlled in the past,” Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair said.

Despite being retained as game, the NSW Wild Deer Management Strategy is currently in development with the view to implement the strategy in 2018.

Wild dogs are also in the NSW Government’s sights, with the Wild Dog Management Strategy to be finalised by the end of the year and implemented in 2018. Minister Blair recently joined Andrew Fraser in the Coffs Harbour electorate to trial new tracking technologies to better understand the movements of dog populations.

In particular, the Government is heeding community call for a more localised approach to pest control.

“A regional approach to pest animal management will also ensure that tools, actions and investments target regional needs. We will work with Industry and the community to undertake comprehensive regional pest animal management planning that identifies the priorities specific to each region of the state,” Minister Blair said.

“A comprehensive pest management framework will ensure our state-wide strategies and regional plans are consistent with the new biosecurity legislation which will commence on July 1, 2017. This will inform all stakeholders of their general biosecurity duty.”

Eleven Local Land Services (LLS) across NSW will develop a Local Strategic Plan specific to their local pest issues. The LLS will also have a State Strategic Plan to better define the priorities of the organisation and streamline the delivery of services.

Other measures in the Government’s response are encouraging, with an acknowledgement of the impact a booming kangaroo population is having on agriculture and a rethink on aerial shooting as a control method for Brumby populations in the Monaro. This is concrete action on grassroots policies committed to at our recent  Annual General Conference in Broken Hill to re-establish the kangaroo meat trade and protect the Snowy Mountains Brumby.

The NRC also called for priority implementation of biosecurity measures against carp. This invasive introduced fish is ravaging native fish stocks and causing up to $500 million worth of damage to rivers and wetlands each year.

While river management is a complex affair, bio-control for carp is a Commonwealth issue which Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of The Nationals Barnaby Joyce has championed. Last week he announced the next phase of the National Carp Control Plan (NCCP).

The overall aim of the NCCP is to achieve a 95% reduction in carp numbers and will this year engage with scientists and the community in preparation for a release of the Cyprinid herpesvirus 3, or ‘carp herpes’ in 2018. This virus is endemic to carp in other countries and crucially, is carp-specific.

The $15 million NCCP consultation and research process will ensure that all fears and management questions surrounding carp die-off are resolved.  In the Murray-Darling system, carp constitute an estimated 80 to 90 per cent of fish biomass, with carp biomass estimated to be in the millions of tonnes nationally. That's why decisive action has been taken, led by Barnaby Joyce as Agriculture Minister, who has pushed for these measures for several years. The opportunity to control carp biologically is considered a once in a generation chance to bring the pest under control, now and in the future. 

The full NSW Government response to the NRC and further information is available at http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/

Further information on the National Carp Control Plan is available at http://carp.gov.au/

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