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Tasmania's Native Wildlife - Protection

31 July 2019
Rosalie Woodruff MP

 

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Speaker, I speak tonight about the native wildlife in Tasmania that are treasured by everyone who visits the state and by those of us who live here. We have unique flora and fauna because Tasmania was once part of the super continent of Gondwana that split apart 200 million years ago. The Australian continent had our tiny little southern tip of Tasmania, which was the last to separate from Gondwana. We left the Antarctic continent a mere 45 million years ago. While the rest of Australia drifted closer to the equator and became warmer and drier, Tasmania has stayed cool and because of that we have kept our Gondwanan legacy.

We have rare and beautiful plants and animals here that exist nowhere else on the planet. We still have the Anaspides tasmaniae, which is a mountain shrimp that looks like Triassic fossils that are over 230 million years old. We have alpine trees, like the Nothofagus gunnii that grew in the Antarctic before it was ice.

The intrinsic value of our native wildlife, however, is totally lost, it appears, on this Government. We have seen some really horrendous examples of the lack of value this Government holds in native wildlife. Native animals are treated by the Government as an inconvenience, a pest, a crop destroyer and a nuisance. Permits to kill them are being handed out by DPIPWE, it seems, like lollies to kids at a party. The Launceston Golf Club's owners did not like animal excrement dirtying the soles of their golfers' shoes, so DPIPWE gave them a permit to kill the ducks, possums, native hens and wallabies. It was only thanks to the passionate outcry of Tasmanians about the killing of this wildlife that reached as far as Hollywood and gave Tasmania such bad press that DPIPWE, eventually, withdrew that authorisation.

Native animals in Tasmania are meant to be protected but the meaning of that word is totally lost on the Government. This is the same Government that lifted the ban on 1080 poison permits, the barbaric and cruel poison that the Greens effectively banned when we were in government.

The lack of rigour in authorising crop protection permits has led to negligent decisions that endanger native populations. For example, permits were granted to kill wombats, even when the local populations in the narawntapu National Park were being devasted by sarcoptic mange. Three permits granted by DPIPWE to kill wombats in that area were recently withdrawn after lobbying about local extinctions. Since then, distressingly, we have heard that mange remains uncontrolled and wombats have been all but wiped out in that area.

This week we learned that permits for so-called crop protection has been issued to shoot native black swans across Tasmania and the Government has been caught sanctioning the killing of 8000 swans in the last three years. Thousands of beautiful, graceful swans are being killed and maimed by guns under permits issued by the very same department that is responsible for protecting them. Outrageously, two farms a stone's throw from a key biodiversity area, the Tamar Island Wetlands, have been granted permits to kill 460 swans in the past three years. We tabled photos today from eyewitnesses to a 7 June shooting of swans on a farm that borders the wetlands and it shows a swan with a missing wing, unable to take flight, seemingly maimed from that shoot.

Apart from the obvious cruelty involved for those swans that were maimed and did not die, what is so disturbing is the total lack of assessment of the impact on the local swan populations being done by DPIPWE. We know this because ornithologists who volunteer their time to count birds, resident experts on the swan population, have said the data does not exist because no proper studies have been done. The permits were issued to shoot these black swans, who mate for life, with no diligence or care. I received an email this afternoon from a gentleman who owns a property overlooking the extensive, prime swan habitat of the Swan Bay Wetlands, further up the Tamar River from where the swans were shot. He had already been very concerned about what was happening to the swans this year. He said -

My family has lived here for almost 40 years. In our experience it is normal to see dozens and sometimes hundreds of swans feeding and nesting in Swan Bay. They are vital part of this natural ecosystem. Of late months, on most days, there are now between zero and sometimes two swans only. We are utterly devasted to learn the Government has authorised a secretive killing of the swans that we should be protecting.

He is extremely dismayed and angered by what he perceives to be a clear-cut case of legal negligence that has directly resulted in the catastrophic collapse of the natural swan population in Swan Bay. It has now become, he said, 'a swan-less bay'.

The Government's complete disregard for the welfare of our native wildlife when they issue permits to kill is an outrage and a disgrace. The Greens will continue to push for an investigation into the process for issuing crop protection permits or, as they should be called, native wildlife kill permits, and the animal welfare and long-term impacts of this. We are facing a global mass extinction event with one million species directly threatened worldwide and we are in a climate emergency. All Tasmanians who are concerned about these realities and who treasure our protected native animals would want the Government to stop handing out licences to kill.