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TAS Country : November 4th 2010
Friday, November 5, 2010 Tasmanian Country 13 Opinion Time to come clean on 1080 report COSTLY EXERCISE: While wallaby-proof fencing is useful, it can be an expensive way of dealing with predators. CHEWS theFAT David Byard YOU may remember I wrote about an Independent Farmers Group meeting at Bridport on August 18 where game control and the soon-to-be-released report on alternatives to 1080 were discussed. The authors of Alternatives to 1080, Mick and Helen Statham, attended that meeting and it needs to be noted that their report was funded by the Federal Government to the tune of $4 million, and as yet it has not been made available. The idea of alternatives to 1080 is to find other ways, but it appears that a viable substitute to 1080 has not been found and we are on course to ban it by the end of 2015. There have been assurances from a range of people, including politicians, who have indicated 1080 would be still made available until an alternative was found. The Minister for Primary Industries and Water Bryan Green needs to reaffirm that position, or will the Government stall the process and hope the issue fades away? The full report was to be published by June, but that was months ago and we are still waiting. A number of motions were passed at the Bridport meeting that Mr Green is well aware of, including: The Alternatives to 1080 report be released immediately (even as a draft) for comments and consultation. Relax permit rules and reduce the cost of 1080 to farmers. Employ an economist to assess how much browsing animals cost the farming sector. Approach insurance companies to determine the costs of road kill damage. Governments must contribute to fencing costs where farmers' properties adjoin Crown land. It is important that Mr Green tells Tasmanian farmers when he intends to release the report. It is disappointing the report hasn't been released as a draft for consultation. And it seems the report will never be released in entirety and what is being proposed now is just a summary. I am not sure how this can happen, given it was funded by federal money. From what I am told, the report is a scientific document that has to be summarised and the department is struggling to find someone to do that. This is staggering. Helen Statham seems willing and able to summarise the report and that would only take about two weeks. It seems the overall program was made up of a number of projects that reported to the program management. And these reports were handed in months ago before the program could be written up. So where are all the reports and will they be made public? It is simply appalling governance if they are not released, and all Tasmanians will want to know what the Government is trying to hide. The whole program was to be reviewed by a senior scientist from New Zealand. So where is his report and will it be released? At the Bridport meeting I was really pleased to hear TFGA chief executive Jan Davis publicly support the use of 1080 until an alternative was found. She also gave the meeting an assurance that she would pursue the Government if the report or a timeframe for its release was not available by September. What was particularly pleasing about the Alternatives to 1080 project was that science was used to get a better understanding of game management and 1080, so that sound, rational decisions could be made based on science and research. It will now be laughable if the Government makes decisions on 1080 without referencing this latest research and allowing the community to see the report as well. Surely this is how our legislative system should work, or do we treat the farmers and community like uneducated peasants keeping them in the dark so legislation can be drafted based on philosophy? One of the tools used when the research was taking place was a computer-based method where specific details of farms were downloaded to get an idea about how much a farmer may be losing to wildlife predation. Measurements of browsing damage during a 12-month period on 16 northern dairy farms found that the loss of production to wallabies and possums was greatest near the bush edge and declined the further you went into the paddock. The average loss over the first 100 metres was 53 per cent on irrigated areas and 63 per cent on dry land sites. Losses often extended beyond the 100 metre mark. A two-year study of dry-land grazing pasture at Ross damaged by wallabies, kangaroos and deer varied between 100 per cent and 68 per cent on an area about 800 metres from the bush. This shows how important a computer program would be to a lot of farmers. And it could even educate the odd politician. These are extraordinary losses that reveal the huge financial burdens farmers are shouldering. While farmers continue to suffer, bureaucrats and politicians wriggle, squirm and fail to make decisions. And all the while rabbit numbers in particular are increasing markedly. Some experts suspect that myxomatosis and calisivirus might be losing their edge with some rabbits building up an immunity. In South Australia five years ago, farmers were using 5kg of 1080 on rabbits, but this year they will use 20kg because of the increase in the rabbit population. I don't think anybody will deny that wallaby numbers are increasing and they are in plague proportions in some areas. One of the most positive outcomes from the Alternatives to 1080 program was an increased understanding of the complexity of the Tasmanian browsing damage problem and the need to measure and address the damage rather than count the number of the animals culled. Agriculture producers who used fencing found it was the most effective long-term control option, despite the increased costs of materials and maintenance. But fencing is not suitable for all situations, it is not a stand-alone control option and it must be accompanied by some form of culling. The program looked at how shooting impacted on numbers and how better practices could help cull predators. Studies were also carried out on the benefits of attaching collars to wallabies that fed on paddocks that were about to be fenced. Toxins and delivery methods were trialled, with Ferrotox proving to be useful. But my understanding is that Ferrotox is not as effective as 1080. Many farmers were frustrated that browsing damage was increasing, but the tools to control the problems were decreasing. Surely the time has come to release the Alternative to 1080 report so people can make their own judgment. If and when a motion comes before Parliament to ban 1080, politicians should be lobbied and educated so they can make a decision based on science and evidence, not on some ideological whim that makes them feel warm and fuzzy. SilaFARM Silage Wrap Bailing Twine Grain Bags Pit Cover Bale Net www.ipstretch.com Grant Lethborg Tasmanian Area Manager T: 0413 949 035 Smithton | Wynyard | Ulverstone Devonport | She eld | Deloraine Launceston | Prospect | Hobart Flinders Island | Scottsdale Legerwood | Campbelltown Bridgewater | Huonville | Oatlands Now available at your local Roberts store! www.robertsltd.com.au We go to greater lengths... to protect your harvest investment.
October 28th 2010
November 11th 2010