VICTORIAN farmers are concerned they might not be consulted on wild dog control issues, and especially aerial baiting, with the dissolution of a ministerial advisory committee.
The state’s Minister for Agriculture Jaclyn Symes has decided to dissolve the Wild Dog Ministerial Advisory Committee this month.
Ms Symes has said the decision is about “refocusing efforts to further help livestock farmers – it is not a reduction in wild dog management,” and the government claims the committee’s task of advising the minister on strategic wild dog has been achieved.
The minister has instead indicated she believed “tailored and timely information outside of a formal committee format will ensure the complex issue of wild dog impacts will continue to be worked on.”
However, the Victorian Farmers Federation today said the committee’s absence must not expose Victorian farmers to the threats posed by wild dogs.
VFF Livestock Councillor Peter Star said the decision to discontinue the committee could undo years of progress towards controlling the menace of wild dogs and could expose Victoria’s livestock industries to costly damages.
“The Wild Dog Committee demonstrated the Government was serious about controlling the threat of wild dogs and allowed farmers to have a voice in the matter.
“The decision to scrap the committee makes no sense and has the potential to undo years of progress,” he said.
Mr Start said although there was “probably not” any threat to wild dog management in the near future with the dissolution of the committee, it has enabled farmers to have a say on the control program and to interact with department staff.
Mr Star said the VFF was committed to ensuring the practice of aerial baiting continued, and would lobby the Victorian Government on the issue and the void left by the departure of the committee. He was “definitely” concerned that without the committee farmers might not be consulted on any future decision-making process on aerial baiting.
“Aerial baiting is a vital wild dog control measure and research shows that it is also extremely effective for controlling foxes, which not only attack lambs but also kill native wildlife.
“The VFF will be lobbying the Government to ensure aerial baiting continues as part of an integrated wild dog management program to protect Victorian sheep producers and native fauna.”
The Victorian Government is continuing aerial baiting, with the last round occurring on May 5-6 and the next phase scheduled for October. The government also secured approval from the Commonwealth to continue aerial baiting at six sites to protect livestock production on private land till December 2023.
In a letter to Leader of the Nationals Peter Walsh on 5 June, Ms Symes said aerial baiting complements the Victorian Government’s current wild dog management program, which incorporates a suite of techniques including ground baiting, trapping and shooting – built on a foundation of community engagement and capability building. She said the Andrews Government has also committed to retaining the wild dog bounty, although it has been temporarily suspended due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“While the WDMAC has been a useful source of advice, I believe that in securing approval from the Commonwealth for aerial baiting and the retention of the wild dog bounty, the WDMAC has served its purpose.
“As such, I have decided not to renew the committee when current memberships lapse in June 2020,’ Ms Symes said.
“I remain committed to continuing to seek advice directly from landholders and other stakeholders on the impact and management of wild dogs.
“Agriculture Victoria staff dedicated to the secretariat of the committee will reorient their efforts to further serve livestock farmers in their wild dog management efforts,” she said.
“I look forward to working with land holders and local communities to continue to improve wild dog management outcomes in Victoria.”
Mr Star said the VFF stood ready to help fill the gap in landholder and industry input created by the loss of the committee.