Increased incidence of pest animals puts extreme pressure on landholders, especially when paired with difficult seasonal conditions. A number of feral species have become more prevalent over recent years and deer are no exception. The deer population is estimated to have doubled over the last decade and spread to areas of the state never before occupied by the species. However, they still manage to evade pest status in NSW.
Deer are an introduced species that pose significant costs and biosecurity risks to individual farmers and agriculture more broadly. It is difficult for any reasonable person to understand why such characteristics would not warrant pest status and why the recreation of hunters is being valued at the expense of productive agriculture.
The NSW Government recently announced changes to deer hunting regulation to offer some relief to affected landholders. These changes remove certain conditions which had prevented activities such as hunting at night or the use of spotlights, electronic devices, aircraft or motor vehicles.
These changes are welcome, but effective management cannot be achieved unless deer are classified as a pest. If a control campaign is to be successful, every private and public landholder needs to play their part in a coordinated response. However, the Local Land Services are not able to serve pest control orders for game animals - this means that there is no way of forcing land managers to comply. By requiring a game license to actively manage feral deer populations, the Government is seeking to boost the revenue of the Game Licensing Unit. One must cynically wonder whether the Government’s motive is to increase license revenue, making it a higher priority than controlling an introduced pest species competing directly with productive agriculture, particularly as farmers across the state battle the worst drought in 50 years.
- NSW Farmers’ president James Jackson