Control of invasive animals on Crown land
20 June 2018, Mr McCurdy (Ovens Valley): I rise to speak about the inquiry into the control of invasive animals on Crown land report that was tabled last year.
The committee spent plenty of time in regional Victoria trying to understand the quantum and the damage that is being done by invasive species on Crown land. Finding 1 is that no accurate population numbers exist for invasive species. That is virtually stating the obvious, but recommendation 1 is that the government allocate resources to the appropriate authority to quantify and measure. Here we are in 2018, or halfway through it, and still my communities are asking when something is going to be done about invasive species, whether it is the kangaroos, the deer or the wild dogs, because they are literally growing in number exponentially.
The report was tabled 12 months ago, as I said. Ovens Valley, as you know, is my electorate. It is the most picturesque and commercially viable agricultural land in regional Victoria. There is certainly plenty of stone fruit around the Yarrawonga area, there are broadacres in Cobram and Yarrawonga, and certainly there is diversity where the tobacco industry was in Myrtleford along with the ecotourism in Bright. But finding 9 of the report says:
Invasive animals in Victoria cause road accidents, threaten the personal safety of people in bush areas, cause damage to urban environments and risk damage to Victoria's tourism industry
So I still wonder why we are continuing to roll out wire rope barriers when we have got areas like this. It has been highlighted that they do cause road accidents, and simply nothing is being done. I think finding 9 completely sums up those concerns.
Today in the Yarrawonga Chronicle there is a major feature about kangaroo numbers, how they have increased and the damage they are doing to farmers and certainly to drivers on the road, yet we are still sitting on our hands in Victoria with no clear direction or strategy. This invasive species inquiry was mooted back in 2014, so we are not just talking about a small amount of time. We are talking about it being nearly four years since this was first raised, and four years later there are still no outcomes or actions.
We know that kangaroos do not recognise private or public land barriers — that is pretty obvious — but the number of dead kangaroos on the side of the road as I drive back to Cobram every night is just growing. These animals are removed every couple of days. The amount that I see is quite astounding. We are not talking about rocket science here. It is about simple resourcing and a care factor. Clearly there are limited resources and a care factor of zero when it comes to the kangaroos that are roaming roads and public and private land.
Kangaroos are only the tip of the iceberg. If you look at the deer in the upper Ovens Valley, they simply need to be controlled. Sambar deer in particular grow to the size of a small cow; they can be 300 kilograms or 400 kilograms. Try dodging one of those on the Great Alpine Road late at night between Bright and Harrietville. It is a scary event which I have experienced on several occasions. I note gratefully that our federal colleagues have committed this morning to putting more money into the Great Alpine Road. That is terrific for that road, but it will not stop the deer wandering out onto the road and it will not stop these other invasive species that we talk about. Recommendations 4, 5 and 6 of the report are based around studies, reports, results, and consultation. Surely we have talked enough. Surely we need to get on with some action now instead of just talking about it.
When it comes to good neighbours, this government has certainly been described as the neighbour from hell. If you let blackberries grow on your property or if you let certain weeds grow on your property, you will be punished for not controlling those weeds. However, Crown land is covered in blackberries around Nug Nug, Murmungee and Eurobin, and the double standards are simply not on.
As to invasive species, we have a similar problem where farms border Crown land. Farmers try to stop deer, wild dogs and kangaroos from entering private land, but it really is like the little Dutch boy putting his finger in the dyke. He would be wasting his time with the farmers because the invasive species can literally come onto private land and then when daylight comes head back into Crown land where they cannot be shot. Those in regional Victoria, particularly those in the alpine regions — Gippsland East, Ovens Valley and Eildon — know what this is all about. These populations are growing exponentially, and we need to do something about this now.
The government response talks about Protecting Victoria's Environment: Biodiversity 2037 — I hope that is not an indication of how long we have to wait before we start to see some action on invasive species. I will have the shadow Minister for Agriculture up in Myrtleford next week to get a greater understanding of how this invasive species problem is of concern to our communities.