Deer farmer fights bureaucracy

29 Mar, 2006 08:45 PM
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BINDOON Rusa deer farmer Dr Desmond Williams has been butting heads with the Agriculture Department's Agriculture Protection Board (APB) for more than two years and the fight is heating up.

The APB has told Dr Williams his outlawed deer species needs to be destroyed or evicted from the state by April 3.

The board has not offered any compensation for possible losses.

Dr Williams said he would challenge the system until a change was made to allow him to farm.

"I have stalled them for years and now the fight begins," he said.

Dr Williams said he had written to State Government ministers about APB's archaic structure, which did not allow community input into decision making.

"The board and the way it functions is not in keeping with the 21st century, where government bodies must give access to the community and meet the community's needs," he said.

"I believe it is an appropriate time to look further at the structure and function of the APB.

"The Minister of Agriculture is obliged to sign the board's decisions but does not have authority to reverse or modify their decision."

Dr Williams said the APB conducted a risk management assessment of his herd and declared the Rusa deer a potential pest, even though Dr Williams had been farming the deer since 1980 and not one had escaped the fenced paddocks.

He said that as the largest Rusa deer farmer in the state, with 150 deer on his 404ha property, he should have been consulted on the species before a decision was reached to ban it.

He said the APB did not have a detailed knowledge of the varieties of deer species and had to send a photographer to his property so the board could distinguish between the Rusa and Red deer.

Dr Williams has farmed for 40 years and in the past few years has been building his herd up to supply the live market in South-East Asia, which was looking for alternatives to chicken due to outbreaks of avian influenza.

He said there was potential for Rusa deer farmed in WA to be exported to Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

Dr Williams said Rusa was farmed in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia.

"The deer is tough and thrives in areas like the outer Wheatbelt and pastoral areas," he said.

Dr Williams said other farmers would enter the deer market if the law were changed because the Rusa was suited to WA conditions and could handle the warmer climate.

APB chairman Chris Richardson said the board would tackle the issue because Dr Williams was in breach of the law.

"The issue is we can go in and destroy them," Mr Richardson said.

He said the board was trying not to inflict financial difficulty on Dr Williams, but if he did not get rid of his stock by April 3 the board would remove them.

"We have been going through the process; it has been ongoing for a couple of years," Mr Richardson said.

"The APB takes advice from a technical committee who said the Rusa deer could do a lot of damage to the environment if they got into the wild.

"We don't want them to get involved in the wild."

The APB next meets on March 30 and April 1, when they might review the issue.

Dr Williams said he would contest the APB's decision in court.

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