COUNCIL Q&A: Invasive pest control scheme
THE future of the Southern Downs will be decided at the local government elections on March 28.
Prospective councillors don't require any formal qualifications but the Queensland Electoral Commission suggests an active interest in community issues, good communication and negotiation skills, and business or financial management skills.
In the lead-up to the mandatory elections The Daily News aims to provide daily insight into candidates' experiences, ideas, visions and priorities.
Candidates will receive a question each weekday, for which they will have 24 hours to respond, within a word limit, before the paper goes to print.
Should these councillors receive the public vote, they will have no shortage of issues with which to contend.
Fires, drought and potential flooding posed complex problems for the region over the past 12 months, and with a global pandemic looming, there are greater challenges to come.
The second question asked,
"Do you support the Invasive Pests Control Scheme? Please explain why."
"Over the last 50 years invasive pests have negatively impacted the economic viability of our agricultural sector. You only have to look at the decline in the sheep industry due to the growing numbers of wild dogs. At some point there needed to be a line drawn in the sand and region-wide action taken to start controlling these pests. The Invasive Pest Control Scheme was that line. We can all work together to control invasive pests and when we show how successful we have been then perhaps the State Government will take notice and bring in a State-wide pest control scheme."
Mayoral candidate Joe Doepel did not provide a response to this question.
Mayoral candidate Peter Kemp did not provide a response to this question.
"I can answer this one very simply: I will seek a thorough review of the pest management scheme with a focus on reward for effort, not a punishment for all. I respect the custodian skills of our land owners, I want to work with them to control our pests, not tell them what they should be doing. They have knowledge we can use if we ask."
BARTLEY, Ross Trevor
"I do not support the Invasive Pest Control Scheme due to the way it was implemented. The threat of a penalty in the form of a supplementary Rate Notice, was not well received by rural producers. This type of penalty puts the ownership of your land in jeopardy if you do not pay your rates for a period of three years. It became a burden on already drought stricken producers, who are still dealing with more important issues in staying viable on their properties. A reward based scheme would have been a much better alternative, and could have been easily implemented."
"The scheme needs to be changed. How is it to be executed? We need more consultation on how it is to executed.
We cannot fine pensioners with mobility problems, should be a register for people that need to be supported and we cannot fine people when council grounds are infected. Cannot be a revenue scheme but a tool to eradicate the pest."
"In its current format, I don't support the Invasive Pests Control Scheme. Farmers and land holders affected have clearly demonstrated they don't support it either by writing to Council, signing petitions and attending rallies in large numbers. It is punitive in approach to all landholders, instead of dealing with the few that aren't managing their land properly. Dealing with invasive pests should be collaborative in approach, with SDRC leading by example."
"Yes, I support the Invasive Pest Control Scheme. We did need to start the eradication process on pests, but council does need to pull their weight with removing roadside pests. It would be more beneficial if council was more helpful and supportive to landowners during the dry years. The dry times are the best times for eradication of these pests, but is also the hardest on their pockets."
"Anything that eradicates Invasive Pests is a good thing and should be supported. I support eradicating Invasive Pests, of course. What I don't support is the barefaced harassment of Landholders in the middle of a drought and bushfires while you self-congratulate yourself on what good corporate citizens you are in "helping" farmers. Does the SDRC even know or care how their own policies are being implemented and policed? Doing nothing about the Invasive Pests on your own land while harassing other Landholders to do something about the Invasive Pests on their land is both offensive and contemptuous!"
Council candidate Andrew Gale did not provide a response to this question.
"Yes. I understand large properties have large infestations and it can be time consuming and frustrating. I realise some large landholders can feel overwhelmed by yearly scrutiny, but if we all verify making appropriate efforts, Council can be assured residents are assuming their individual responsibilities. Both private landholders and Council owned land will require ongoing control, so we all need to play our part in the future. The present scheme works for me, but If there is a better one, I am all ears."
"The IPCS was created when a delegate from farming group Agforce asked the Pest Management Advisory Committee if council could come up with a way to help better manage invasive pests in our region. The Wild Dog Advisory Group unanimously endorses it due to better control of wild dogs. An independent study clearly shows the benefits and it's working well. The works form is like an annual survey to help see how we are tracking. The IPCS has won the National Froggets Award recognising significant achievement in Invasive Pest Control. Public land is also being better cleared of invasive pests."
"The landowners I have spoken to say they agree with the intent of the Invasive Pests Control Scheme seeing that pest reduction/eradication is good land management anyway. Given the opportunity to make changes to the Scheme, they would like more flexibility in time frames. If the landowner demonstrates that the problem is being addressed (although the final outcome could be some years away) this should be sufficient. It was observed that Council themselves have time frame dilemmas with, for example, removal of pear on road verges.
Each property has its own challenges and Council needs to be understanding of that."
"Practice what you preach. No, council has always had the power to enforce pest control on landholders who don't comply. I attended rallies from the onset to no avail. This hard-line approach penalises every landholder during their most challenging years to date, to introduce a heavy-handed scheme when landholders are at their most vulnerable is deplorable, creating more red tape at a time of stress & added workload within council. I'd advocate for a full IPCS review, including a detailed breakdown of where funds are directed, or abolish it completely & work with landholders not against them."
HARROLD, Amanda Joy
"The invasive pest control scheme has caused a lot of stress among our rural residents who are doing it tough with the drought. There were already local laws in place to control pests and this scheme has just added another burden. I believe that the scheme should be urgently reviewed and any fines should be waived while the region recovers. A good start would be to send out a survey to the affected landholders instead of the works form to gauge true community feedback on this scheme and its effectiveness."
Council candidate Max Hunter did not provide a response to this question.
JENSEN, Michael Damian
Council candidate Michael Jensen did not provide a response to this question.
JOHNSON, Gregory Glenn
"Absolutely I support the IPCS. It was introduced in 2017 to ensure that all landholders were working with council to actively reduce the impact of invasive pests on the regions agriculture. I understand there is a levy imposed on landholders who don't meet their invasive pest control obligations, but this to offset the costs incurred by all landholders from uncontrolled invasive pests. Agriculture is an important economic driver in the Southern Downs and us such it is essential that we protect this industry, and the land in this region, for future generations."
Council candidate Julia Keogh did not provide a response to this question.
"As a rural landowner I am responsible for controlling invasive pests on my land (Biosecurity Act 2014). The goal of the scheme is to see this region pest free by 2030. There is an environmental impact/cost if every rural landowner does not conform. Red meat producers accreditation (1/10/17) is dependent on a documented Farm Biosecurity Plan. SDRC has provided a scheme that is fair to all. Rural landowners should not be incentivised as they are the custodians of the land for future generations. It is our duty of care to neighbours also."
"I support the need to control or eradicate invasive pests, but the council's control scheme relies on the landholder taking the full financial responsibility for their removal and failure to meet their obligations to the council will result in a supplementary rate notice. I would propose that the landholder is rewarded with a reduction in rates when yearly work is completed on their property. For the pests that move freely from property to property like pigs and rabbits a co-ordinated area by area eradication process partnering landholders, council and sharing the cost burden would be effective."
"I believe that overall, the Invasive Pest Control Scheme is working. After initial reluctance on behalf of landowners, a reporting schedule has developed and benefits can be assessed and noticed. There is some resentment where pests on council owned land are neglected. Land owners feel that if they are doing their bit, then so should council. At times, the landowners reporting of say, blackberry on council land, has not been acted upon.
As a landowner, the reporting responsibilities are a conscious reminder to carry out regular inspections and eradications to prevent wide spread infestations in the future. I believe that if some people are struggling to manage the scheme, then the council employees can assist getting on track.
Overall, in the long term, the scheme will improve value in the region so therefore I will support it."
"While I support the purpose of the Invasive Pest Control Scheme to eradicate introduced pest Flora and Fauna, I do not support the linkage of rate penalties for property owners to force them to deal with this issue. As a farmer in the Western District, we deal with extensive Prickly Pear and Wild Pig problems. While we are managing these issues as per our farm business plan, during the sustained drought for the past 3 years we did not have the financial resources available to eradicate these pests. Many property owners that I have spoken to have similar concerns."
I fully support the Invasive Pest Control Scheme which is supported by the Pest Management Advisory Committee, comprising local rural landholders. AEC undertook an assessment of the Scheme which determined that 415000 hectares will be pest free by 2030. Sometimes you have to be brave and take a stand, draw a line in the sand and start the journey to a better future.
"The Invasive Pests Control Scheme has been a resounding success and has won a Froggatt Award for the contribution that the Invasive Pests Control Scheme has had protecting Australia's native plants and animals in the Southern Downs and Granite Belt.
Other councils are now looking to follow SDRC's lead.
Many noxious weeds and feral animals are now being bought under control, 24,000 hectares of land are free from declared weeds and pests.
Our children and grandchildren will benefit from what has been achieved by this scheme and landholders should be congratulated for the great job that they have done during such difficult times."
"I support a scheme addressing invasive pest control.
Having said that I feel a commonsense approach must be taken when implementing such a scheme given the pressures landholders are experiencing regarding drought and other hardship.
Communication is vital with farmers, as is relief and support in times where the region's agricultural industry is under significant pressure.
While I support a scheme, our farming community don't need further pressures as they work to reignite their operations."
"I do support the Invasive Pest Scheme. A lot of time and effort was put into its concept.
However, the Council did not do a very good job of introducing and implementing it.
A softer approach would have been better accepted.
The large majority of landholders now think it is a great idea, and the Scheme is going to be adopted by other Councils.
The biggest problem is absentee landholders who have not done any work on their land, who are next door to landholders working their way through the process. Also road corridors managed by TMR."
"No. Definitely not in its present form. It uses a stick, not a carrot approach. It does not recognise that farmers are the best custodians of their land. Council has not listened to large public meetings of farmers that expressed concerns with the scheme. Pest weeds are very easy to find on many Council roads and much Council controlled land. If Council can't control its own weeds how can they ask farmers to control theirs?"
"There is no way I can support the current Invasive Pests Control Scheme. From the beginning this scheme was destined to be a failure among the vast majority of land owners on the Southern Downs. The scheme was set up to accuse landholders of what they were not doing, instead of rewarding what they had and were continuing to achieve off their own backs. For the most part, this land is the livelihood of its owner and most people have a very secure pest management scheme already in place. I believe that if council were to lead by example their own blocks of land would be pest free."
Council candidate Sheryl Windle did not provide a response to this question.