PRICKLY BUSINESS: Boxthorn is an invasive species that is a problem in the Southern Downs region.
PRICKLY BUSINESS: Boxthorn is an invasive species that is a problem in the Southern Downs region.

PEST PLAN: Controversial Southern Downs strategy extended

A CONTROVERSIAL pest management scheme has been extended until 2020 after what Southern Downs Regional Council says was a "positive response” from landholders.

The plan was initially met with a prickly response from ratepayers when introduced in June but Mayor Tracy Dobie said the feedback had been reassuring.

She said there was an 89 per cent response rate to the scheme's Control Works Form that asked landowners which invasive species they had on their properties and what they were doing to manage them.

"We are so impressed by the landholders in our region who have taken this in such a positive and proactive way,” Cr Dobie said.

But people who don't respond to the forms by March will be stung by a levy on their rate notices, which will be determined by the size of their properties.

Councillor Marika McNichol raised concerns for elderly property owners who did not have the time, skills or equipment required to get invasive pests under control.

Cost is also a factor, with expensive chemicals and baits a burden on landholders.

Cr McNichol said there was help for people who were looking at getting invasive species under control.

"Anyone who is having trouble can ring the pest management team and they will be more than happy to come out to their property and help them,” Cr McNichol said.

Despite this, many farmers say they are still struggling against such species as boxthorn and blackberries.

Yangan farmer Pat McConville struggles to find the time to tackle pests among the daily pressures of running a dairy farm.

"It's never ending trying to keep them under control. Every time it rains, they pop up again,” he said.

Swanfels producer Cameron Schoenfisch has managed to get the boxthorn on his property under control but said eradication was difficult.

"These things will go straight through your tractor tyres,” he said.

"They're really nasty... it's not just like spraying a bit of grass. You can get machinery in and everything but it doesn't work.”

Mr Schoenfisch said he feared the council was too involved in controlling people's private backyards.

"If people are happy to have a weedy old farm, they should be able to have a weedy old farm ... where do you draw the line?” he asked.

But Cr Dobie said it was a legislative requirement that landowners manage pests.

"Landowners are obligated by law to manage invasive pests on their land... council is required to enforce that.”

The scheme targets five major pests in the region:

Wild dogs;

Rabbits;

Boxthorn;

Blackberry; and

Velvety tree pear.

Cr McNichol said despite the burden on landholders, people were noticing a difference since the scheme's implementation.

"We've had a lot of people call in and say how much cleaner the place looks,” Cr McNichol said.

She said one man remarked on seeing the first koala in the region since he was six years old, which was attributed to wild dogs being more controlled.

Cr Dobie said a long-term strategy was required. "There are jobs that have to be done... we're not asking people to eradicate their land in the next month,” she said.

"We fully appreciate this is a long-term solution but little bit by little bit, it can all be managed.”



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