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Primary Industries - Deer

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 26 November 2020

Tags: Deer, Invasive Species

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, I want to go to the issue of feral deer in Tasmania. At the public consultation in Bothwell this past week on the proposed deer management plan, participants were told by DPIPWE that removing the partially protected status of deer in Tasmania under the Nature Conservation Act was not up for discussion.

Mr BARNETT - Sorry, did you say DPIPWE said that, or who said it?

Ms O'CONNOR - It is my understanding from someone who was at the meeting that DPIPWE told members of the public at that consultation meeting in Bothwell that removing the partially protected status of deer in Tasmania was not up for discussion. In fact, it was noted in a slide presentation at the start of the meeting as a 'constraint on the discussion'. Minister, did you as minister impose that constraint and direct DPIPWE that changing the status of deer in the deer management plan development process was not an option?

Mr BARNETT - Thanks very much for the question. I am very pleased to be able to speak about the importance of getting the balance right when it comes to the impact of deer on our important primary industries and our natural environment while also maintaining a deer herd for our traditional recreational hunters and the hunting resource. We have to get that balance right and that has always driven the policy of this Government. That is why I am pleased and thankful for the Tasmanian Game Council, headed up by former Legislative Councillor Greg Hall. I appreciate their advice and their feedback. That is the point of having a new deer management plan that we are consulting on, getting feedback from members of the public, whoever they are, from wherever they come from -

Ms O'CONNOR - The question is, are you constraining the information?

CHAIR - Ms O'Connor, the minister has not finished giving his answer yet.

Mr BARNETT - I am happy to speak about it because we are developing the first wild fallow deer management plan for Tasmania. That is why we are consulting and getting feedback from the community. I have responded positively to the Legislative Council inquiry that I wanted to go further to provide an opportunity for input to the plan. We have a Government policy position of getting the balance right. That policy position is important. That may be something you are referring to. Whether it is or it isn't, I want to make it clear that it is the Government's policy position to get the balance right. We believe we have the balance right. We have put a lot of hard work into assessing the deer numbers. They are now more than 50 000 assessed across the state. I'm happy to have any further questions with respect to deer management.

Ms O'CONNOR - I note that you didn't answer the question again, which was about whether there was a direction to DPIPWE that discussion around removing the deer's protected status from the Nature Conservation Act 2002 would not be considered. I note that and move on to my next question.

Minister, what was the exact number of deer kills reported to DPIPWE in the last financial year?

Mr BARNETT - We will check if we have officers at the table who can assist you with that question. I am pretty sure it is game traps. The deputy secretary might confirm they have that reported in the annual report. We will either get back to you today or provide the question on notice.

Ms O'CONNOR - Maybe I will just put it on notice to be sure.

CHAIR - The minister can provide the information to the committee later on today as long as it is by 5 p.m.

Mr BARNETT - If we get the answer we will give it to you. If we haven't got it today we will put on notice.

Ms O'CONNOR - A map of deer infestations across Tasmania printed in 2011 by DPIPWE clearly shows deer well outside of their traditional range, if you like to call it that. It shows large areas of deer farm escapes, translocations and expanding numbers in the far north west of Tasmania in a large band from Riana all the way to the east coast, enveloping Launceston and down south, encroaching on the outskirts of Bridgewater, at Judbury and Southport and encroaching onto the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage area. We also know that since then a population of deer has intruded into Bruny Island.

Why did the recent aerial survey of deer in Tasmania exclude areas where deer are known to exist, based on DPIPWE's own map published in 2011, as well as other available information?

Mr BARNETT - I will pass to the deputy secretary to respond to the very specific parts of that question. I note the importance of the aerial survey. The Government wanted to respond to the Legislative Council inquiry. Its report and its recommendations were comprehensive. We responded to that, funded that and provided that information. There are around 54 000. I take advice from the Tasmanian Game Council. That is the deer census, but you have made reference to not just the census -

Ms O'CONNOR - Other areas that they have expanded into.

CHAIR - You have already asked three questions.

Ms O'CONNOR - I understand, but the minister is engaging with me and I point out that Dr Broad constantly interjected.

CHAIR - I understand your passion and I respect your commitment. But I ask that you allow the minister to finish his response. None of us can pre-empt what the minister is about to say. I do not want to have issue you warnings, otherwise I have to start shutting down the committee. I ask that you let the minister respond.

Ms O'CONNOR - I understand that, Madam Chair, except I point out that Dr Broad constantly interjected with the minister and was not pulled up.

Mr BARNETT - The census is an important point that you raised. We have undertaken that census and the first part of the effort was the aerial survey. Then you have camera traps, citizen sites, so the work is ongoing. The deputy secretary can outline the extent of this further work. It is important work so that we can be fully appraised. To make the best decisions you need the best information available. That is what the Government is doing. Our deer management plan will be based on the best information available. That is why I am pleased with the process we have put in place. I will now refer to the deputy secretary.

Ms WILSON - This was the first comprehensive state-wide census to improve our understanding of wild fallow deer. It was based on expert advice about how an aerial survey should be undertaken.

That independent expert advice came from Tony Pople, the principal scientist at Biosecurity Queensland and Steve McLeod, senior researcher at Biosecurity NSW. The University of Tasmania approved the methodology -

Ms O'CONNOR - It was not statewide.

Ms WILSON - No, that is because of the nature of the aerial survey and the scientific rigour that is required. Aerial surveys work best where you have a certain density. That's why we undertook that approach. The survey methodology is appropriate for moderate to high populations of target species, which is why it is usually restricted to the traditional deer range. It was not the only thing we are doing.

As the minister has indicated we are doing camera tracks and citizen science methods which will collect data over an extended time. They are an appropriate method to estimate the abundance of wildlife with low to very low populations.