I BURNT IT ALL: Farmer destroyed acres of precious food
AN ELDERLY farmer who took a match to 30 acres of plant that could have saved his cattle from drought is at the forefront of an uprising against the "unfair" council scheme that "forced" him to destroy a valuable source of food.
When 77-year-old Colin Clegg destroyed tonnes of tree pear, he had no idea a terrible drought was around the corner.
"I burnt it all and now I wish I hadn't," Mr Clegg said.
After clearing the plant from his Pratten property in attempt to comply with the Southern Downs Regional Council's Invasive Pest Control Scheme, the semi-retired farmer is now carting the pest back onto his farm in truckloads.
Every week, Mr Clegg gets at least two deliveries of tree pear from a neighbouring farm - a last resort to try and keep his cattle alive as fodder supplies dwindle.
"It is beautiful, it is a beautiful source of food," Mr Clegg said.
Despite being a prohibited invasive plant under the Biosecurity Act, Mr Clegg said tree pear was nutritious for livestock.
"I could have used it all this year but I didn't know this drought was going to be so bloody terrible."
Mr Clegg destroyed the plant to avoid copping a levy for non-compliance with the council's controversial pest control scheme that was introduced in 2017.
But an online petition registered with the Queensland Parliament on Friday night has marked a growing push to have the scheme overhauled.
With the support of Mr Clegg and hundreds of other landowners, the petition calls for an incentive-based approach to the scheme.
Under the current scheme, eligible landowners are required to pay a levy of $500 or more if they do not meet obligations, which include completing a "Control Works Form" that outlines measures owners will take to control invasive pests on their land.
Southern Downs mayor Tracy Dobie said the council had considered an incentive-based scheme but would not be prepared to impose a 15 per cent rate rise on Southern Downs citizens to implement such a strategy.
"If council was to provide $1000 for every person who complied with the scheme that would amount to around $5.6 million," Cr Dobie said.
"I'll go back to the fact that managing invasive pests on your land is an obligation imposed by the Biodiversity Act in Queensland - the requirement is already there."
The mayor said farmers who wished to retain tree pear as a source of food for their animals could apply to the council for an exemption.
But Pratten farmer and principal petitioner Robert Hudson said landowners were already trying to do everything they could to manage pests before the scheme was introduced.
"The weeds are forever and all you can do is just deal with it, you don't need a council worksheet to do it," he said.
"We can take the responsibility on ourselves - we don't need the council standing over us and punishing us."
Since it was launched, the parliamentary petition has gained 180 signatures.
Mr Hudson said he hoped taking the issue to a state government level would put more pressure on the council to reconsider elements of the scheme.