Dr WOODRUFF question to MINISTER for ENVIRONMENT and CLIMATE CHANGE, Mr JAENSCH
Today is Threatened Species Day, the same day that we find government figures confirm 220 endangered Tasmanian devils have been killed on the state's roads in the last 18 months. In your own backyard, minister, we understand that at least 158 healthy devils have died on the 25 kilometre stretch of the industrial Woolnorth Road. Wildlife carers contact your office in January, desperate when the number of devil deaths was only 28. Seven months later 130 more devils have died painful, preventable deaths.
Minister, this is what the war on wildlife looks like: it looks like 158 of these dead devils.
Mr SPEAKER - Dr Woodruff, that is not appropriate, thank you. You know that props are not allowed in this Chamber.
Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you, Mr Speaker. It is important for the minister to understand there are 158 dead animals.
Your response today was voluntary reductions and virtual fencing which we know does nothing. The devils need you to dramatically lower the speed limit on these roads and enforce that. While you dither, we are losing the battle and iconic species are creeping to extinction. What hope does Tasmania's 150 plus threatened species have when you will not even prioritise saving the Tasmanian devil?
Mr Speaker, I thank Dr Woodruff for her question. I do not thank her for the nasty little character assessment that comes with it, as usual. I think we are better than that in here.
I am happy to answer the question and to confirm that I was in Smithton, Circular Head, heading up past Montagu, the Woolnorth region, just last week with the team of people we have brought together and are working with specifically on the Circular Head healthy population of devils, which is very important. Our Government is concerned about the incidence of all roadkill on our roads -
Ms O'Connor - That is nice.
Mr JAENSCH - I am answering your question - including the unfortunate high numbers of Tasmanian devils that are reported to have been killed in the Woolnorth region. We know the Woolnorth region has one of the highest reported rates of devil road kill. This is because the region supports some of the highest-known densities of Tasmanian devils in this -
Dr Woodruff - No, it is not. That is not the reason.
Mr SPEAKER - Order, Dr Woodruff. I have mentioned in this Chamber a number of times that when you ask a question it is not an invitation to be constantly interjecting. If you continue down this path, what I will do in the future is, after you have asked the question, I will then ask you to leave so we can listen to the minister in silence. Please, if you want to stay in the Chamber, do not interject.
Mr JAENSCH - Thank you, Mr Speaker.
The region supports some of the highest-known densities of Tasmanian devils in the state, influenced by high-quality devil habitat, combined with the continued absence of devil facial tumour disease in the region and the characteristics of local roads and road use. That is why we are working to protect the local population of this threatened species.
Our Government has joined forces with the Circular Head Council, the Cradle Coast Authority, key industries in the region and other stakeholders to encourage drivers to slow down in the Woolnorth region. The multi-faceted campaign will focus on a range of initiatives to help reduce the number of devils killed on our roads in this location as part of this collaborative approach.
We acknowledge that roadkill is a challenging issue to manage and relies on a range of stakeholders, including road owners, road managers and drivers to take action. Slowing down from dusk to dawn in high-risk areas remains the most effective way to reduce roadkill, although physical or engineering solutions may also be effective in specific situations.
We have committed to further engaging with the working group to determine our next steps on how the Government can best support the council, and Cradle Coast NRM on these matters. As part of the campaign, the Government has funded the installation of signs in hotspot locations to alert drivers to the risk and encourage them to slow down between dusk and dawn.
Last week, as I said, I joined Circular Head Council, Cradle Coast Authority, members of our Save the Tasmanian Devil Program, and representatives of Fonterra to inspect one of the newly installed signs and discuss the work of the working group and the council. These signs are just one part of the broader suite of education and awareness initiatives, and my department is taking a key coordinating role with that.
Another focus for my department is coordinating the collection and dissemination of roadkill data which is very important to determining where, when and what kind of mitigation measures we can deploy as well as determining whether the measures have been effective.
Our Government is also committed to providing scientific information, advice and support for the reduction of speed limits in the Woolnorth area. However, speed limit reduction is ultimately a decision for the Transport Commissioner. If the local council, as the road owner, makes a submission to the Commissioner seeking changes to road speed in the area we will provide the supporting scientific evidence for that submission. The road owner makes a submission to the Transport Commissioner on issues of road speed changes.
I am also advised that Van Dairy, which operates in the area, are educating their staff about speed reduction. They are using bumper stickers to promote the message of 'Drive Safe for Devils'. Fonterra has introduced a voluntary speed limit reduction for their trucks going through the area and reducing night-time milk pick-ups.
Additionally, Tasmania Police is increasing patrols in the Woolnorth area after reports of excessive speeds and dangerous driving above the existing road speed limits. Importantly, the Circular Head Devil Roadkill Mitigation Fund, managed by the Cradle Coast NRM, has also been established, which will give interested organisations a chance to collaboratively fund roadkill reduction actions. We have had pledges from corporate land users in the area to a fund to support roadkill mitigation work.
My department is also working on a replacement platform for the previous Roadkill TAS app which closed last year when the developer withdrew their support. That is currently being road-tested with stakeholders and will soon be finalised for broader release.
We are clearly aware of the importance of the intact population of devils in the Woolnorth area and Circular Head. So is the local community. So is the local council. So is the Cradle Coast Authority. So is Van Dairy. So is Fonterra. We are working together and funding actions on a range of levels to address the risk to the devils. I commend all of those who have worked with us and we will continue to invest in solutions for the devil in the Woolnorth area.