Cassy O’Connor MP | Greens Leader and Primary Industries spokesperson
Staff from the Department of Primary Industries Parks Water and the Environment (DPIPWE) today refused to give evidence to tomorrow’s Senate Committee hearings into the impact of feral deer, goats and pigs on farmers and the landscape. This decision was made without explanation to the Committee.
It is staggering that the government department responsible for the management, or mismanagement, of feral deer in Tasmania has refused to give evidence to the Senate Committee.
Was this a directive from DPIPWE Secretary, Tim Baker? Does Minister, Guy Barnett, approve of this offensive snub to an inquiry established by majority vote in the Senate to investigate the impact of feral species, and measures to control them?
Feral deer are destroying farmland, crops and fencing, as well as wilderness values in our protected areas. They are also a public safety risk on Tasmanian roads.
In August, Minister Barnett released the government’s fallow deer survey, calling numbers ‘sustainable’. There is nothing sustainable about a feral species breeding in huge numbers, damaging fencing, crops and wilderness areas unchecked.
The Minister’s survey only took into account the so-called ‘traditional range’ of fallow deer in the NE corner. While this is a misnomer in itself - as a feral species, deer have no ‘traditional range’ - the survey ignored two thirds of the State - including the Central Highlands and the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.
54,000 deer were found in the area surveyed. When giving evidence under oath to the 2017 Legislative Council inquiry, DPIPWE officials estimated the feral deer population as likely closer to 100,000.
Is the reason the government won’t front the Senate Inquiry because they’d have a tough time explaining their numbers and lack of action to control this destructive feral species?
Or is it because they didn’t want questions about why feral deer are protected under the Nature Conservation Act 2002, with more government resources dedicated to sustaining their population for shooters than in threatened species protection?
Fallow deer are feral animals, a pest species to farmers and in the natural environment they should be treated as such.
The Greens call on Minister Barnett to ask his department to appear before the Senate Committee tomorrow. That is their job, to act in the public interest, not be made to provide cover for a Minister not capable of dealing with the threat to farmers and nature.