The devastating impact of feral animal populations has long been known. Australia's native animals, natural landscape, the agriculture industry and national economy as a whole suffer enormously as a result of the likes of foxes, cats, deer, rabbits and pigs. Not to mention the ongoing biosecurity threat they pose.
Recent research conducted in the state's North West has revealed feral pigs alone are costing that region's farmers almost $50 million annually. Extrapolate that across all of NSW, and even Australia, and it's not hard to see why farmers expend so much time and so many resources each year trying to combat feral populations.
Local Land Services have been a great help to many landholders in providing advice and assistance on pig control; but their resources are also stretched and there appears to be little guarantee of ongoing and uncontested funding to enable them to make longer term plans. Most landholders, understand that feral animal control is just part of the job, but it shouldn't fall to them completely.
Governments at all levels periodically announce funding for feral animal control, but so often it's an amount that would barely dent the surface of the problems given just how big the issues are. In October, Federal Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud unveiled the National Feral Pig Action Plan, a national and coordinated approach to feral pig management. Mr Littleproud said the plan would guide and support the delivery of best practice management of feral pigs, "supporting effective, sustained and humane best practice management of feral pigs by providing leadership and strategic direction to combat this pest".
It's all very well to have a national, coordinated approach to the issue - that's certainly the approach we need to be taking. But if there's not a realistic amount of funding backing the actions within that approach, then it counts for very little. Farmers still feel like they're doing a lot of the heavy lifting - at significant cost to their businesses - on their own.
In the same media release announcing the plan, it said the Federal Government had invested more than $14 million in feral pig management since 2015. A drop in the ocean in comparison to the size of the problem, which many farmers will say has grown rapidly. Our state governments, too, have to shoulder more of the responsibility - for example, controlling feral populations on public lands. For years farmers have been pleading for better management of public land to prevent the explosion of feral animal numbers in these protected zones from spilling out onto neighbouring properties.
The CWA of NSW has long campaigned for more resources to tackle feral animals, arguing investment will equate to higher agricultural productivity and enormous environmental gains. It will remain a focus as our branches are only too aware of the economic and emotional toll it's taking on rural and regional communities.
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