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Estimates questions on Wombats to Minister Groom

6 June 2017
 
Ms  DAWKINS  - I know you are aware of the group in Kelso called the Wombat Warriors who are trying desperately to save wombats in that area.  We believe there is localised extinction in Narawntapu now and the concern is that extinction is going to travel south.  I know they are using Cydectin now, something Mr Rockliff enabled.  I was wondering if you have had any conversations with the minister around removing the cull permits for wombats in that area, considering how desperately hard the community is working to try and rehabilitate wombats?
 
Mr GROOM - I appreciate the question.  We have an issue in Tasmania with respect to the wombats, not the least of which is the mange.  This is presenting a significant impact on wombat populations in very specific areas.  The impact it is having Narawntapu has been horrific, to be blunt. 
 
In that context the Government announced $100 000 to assist in activities to address wombat mange; $35 000 was to be spent on monitoring of statewide wombat populations, assessing the prevalence and extent of mange.  Conservation Volunteers Australia will be contracted to undertake this work shortly.  There will be $35 000 to be used to contract UTAS to undertake research into mange treatment methods.  We have to continue to do all we can to better understand how we can make a difference.  Another $30 000 is allocated to provide financial support to the wombat community groups and individuals to treat mange-affected wombats.  We have started administering grants.  Grants are available of up to $3000 per individual or group for infrastructure or consumables to assist with treating mange-affected wombats.  This is an ongoing effort we are putting in place.
 
In relation to the crop protection permits, as a result of issues around the impacts of mange, as the responsible minister at the time I asked the department to conduct a review of the process for issuing crop protection permits for wombats.  The review is ongoing and we cannot be sure of the outcome.  The process has been tightened in the meantime.  Permits can only be approved by senior managers within DPIPWE where serious adverse material impact can be demonstrated to a farming business.  Since 2010, the department had issued on average 35 crop protection permits for wombats per year.  Since the review was undertaken I can advise that only three permits have been issued statewide.  I am acutely aware of the significant community concern in relation to the issuance of crop protection permits for wombats, particularly at a time when localised populations of wombats are suffering the effects of wombat mange.
 
I have ongoing engagement with Mr Rockliff.  He is continuing to consider potential options for further tightening these arrangements, at least until we have a better of the full impact of mange.  Mr Rockliff will make an announcement in relation to his consideration of that issue and the further tightening of arrangements for the issuing of crop protection permits.  It is a significant issue and one Mr Rockliff and I have been focused on.
 
Mr WHITTINGTON - The proposed use of moxidectin or Cydectin, the trade name, is off-label use, so it is not pre-approved.  The APVMA, the Commonwealth organisation, has to provide the approvals.  We have been working with Tasmanian groups to gain access to Cydectin for mange treatment.  It is a long story but the outcome of it is that Tasmanian groups are able to work off the back of a permit held by Mange Management Inc., based in Victoria.  We issue permits to the Kelso group to use moxidectin on mange-affected wombats based on a permit issued in Victoria.  It is a convoluted way but the outcome is that chemical is available for off-label use in Tasmania, to registered organisations.
 
Ms  DAWKINS  - When will the review be complete?
 
Mr GROOM - From my perspective, as soon as possible.  It is now with Mr Rockliff and the issue has his attention.
 
Ms  DAWKINS  - How many community groups have been able to avail themselves of the $3000 grants?  Do they need to have spent the money first and seek reimbursement?
 
Mr GROOM - I might defer to John.  There is a $30 000 allocation for community groups or individuals involved in treating mange-affected wombats.  It enables people to apply for funding of up to $3000 per individual or group for infrastructure or consumables.  I understand one application has been processed by an east coast community group.  That was the latest information that I had, but John may be able to enlighten us further.
 
Mr WHITTINGTON - It is my understanding is that one group has applied and that they do not have to spend the money first.  It can be a grant given that is then expended.