LISTER: Council scheme a source of 'angst' and 'offence'
STATE member for the Southern Downs James Lister said farmers felt they were being "taken to with a stick" under the Southern Downs Regional Council's controversial Invasive Pest Control Scheme.
"Look the honest truth is that there is a great deal of angst about it," Mr Lister said.
The state politician spoke up about the scheme that was introduced in July last year as a strategy to promote pest and weed control in the region.
"I don't think landholders enjoy the compulsion of it," Mr Lister said.
Opposition towards the scheme reached new levels last week when a electronic petition was registered with the Queensland Parliament.
Under the scheme, eligible landowners are required to complete a Control Works Form, which details measures they will take to control pests on their land.
Landowners who fail to complete the form or implement strategies must pay a levy of $500 or more.
But Mr Lister said landowners in the region were offended by the council's approach.
"Many express to me a sense of offence at being taken to with a stick to do something they do anyway and have done for generations," he said.
"Everyone understands that we need to control weeds and pests."
Pratten farmer Robert Hudson said it was "impossible" to comply with the requirements of the IPCS.
"How can you say what you're going to do and how long it will take you," he said.
"I might get rid of everything but by the time council comes around new weeds have come up, they're an endless cycle."
Southern Downs mayor Tracy Dobie defended the scheme, saying there was strong support for the IPCS during community consultation prior to its implementation.
"I'd like the land owners who feel they are being punished to come forward with the evidence," Cr Dobie said.
"In the last financial year there was approximately $125,000 issued in levies for those who had not done their control works forms or had not taken action to control pests.
"This is not money grabbing as it is claimed to be, it is not a punishment to land owners."
A council review after the first year of the IPCS implementation showed 91 per cent of control works forms had been returned and participation in baiting programs had increased.
But Mr Lister said the high rate of compliance with the scheme was not necessarily a sign of support from landowners.
"I am just being honest that the high level of returns of forms shouldn't be taken as an indication that everyone is happy with the scheme," he said.
"This scheme belongs to the council and it's up to them how they run pest management in their area. It is not something that I personally have any power over."