Government accepts DEC overhaul report

Government accepts DEC overhaul report


Agribusiness
Pastoralists and Graziers Association president Rob Gillam.

Pastoralists and Graziers Association president Rob Gillam.

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THE State Government has accepted the need for an overhaul in the way its Department of Environment and Conservation manages ex-pastoral land it acquires.

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THE State Government has accepted the need for an overhaul in the way its Department of Environment and Conservation manages ex-pastoral land it acquires.

Responding last week to the Parliamentary inquiry report tabled in August, it agreed to virtually all of the report's recommendations.

The inquiry, chaired by Mike Nahan, spent months investigating the DEC's management of its 32 former pastoral leases and its involvement in another 25 in the north of WA, after widespread reports of hundreds of animals dying from lack of water and pests running unchecked.

Of the committee's 19 recommendations for change, 13 have been accepted by the government, with the remaining six accepted in part or noted.

Pastoralists and Graziers Association president Rob Gillam said it was pleasing the government had generally accepted the recommendations of the parliamentary inquiry, which had drawn attention to problems occurring with DEC's management of the former pastoral lands.

But Mr Gillam said it was disappointing the government had not accepted the inquiry's recommendation that the DEC pay and the government match an amount equal to the Agriculture Protection Rates to the Zone Control Authorities, for pest, animal and weed control programs.

"We had hoped the government would acknowledge that non-payment of the Agriculture Protection Rates by those properties to the local zone control authorities is in some cases, in the southern rangelands, leading to those groups finding it very difficult to continue on and have a meaningful effect," Mr Gillam said.

"Particularly in the Pilbara, Meekatharra and Carnarvon regions, so many properties are under DEC control that a meaningful program can't be carried out due to lack of funds."

The need for allocation of appropriate resources to competently manage the properties was acknowledged by the government, with the DEC already reallocating an additional one million dollars each year towards management of the leases.

Earlier this year, the State Government announced that $3.65m would be allocated for strategic wild dog control and $5.17m to upgrade and extend the State Barrier Fence.

The DEC will also take steps to expedite the process of reserving acquired land under a Conservation and Land Management Act 1984 tenure that allows conservation and tourism management as well as allowing access for miners.

New caretakers on DEC-managed former pastoral leases will be required to have a firearms licence and pest control qualifications and where possible, current staff will be encouraged to obtain qualifications.

The government also accepted the need for better management when removing water sources and for improved communication with neighbours.

A review of the Good Neighbour Policy has commenced, which will look at ways the DEC can improve relations with adjoining landholders.

The DEC will also upgrade its website to include all active and deactivated water sources on former pastoral leases, but cautioned travellers against relying too much on this.

The department said it remains committed to cost effective, efficient and safe pest control and is currently undertaking a report on the efficiency of its aerial pest management programs, with the report due to be finished by end of March 2011.

Pastoral heritage values will be given a higher priority, including an evaluation of leases to determine if any should be heritage listed and stronger links forged with local government and historical societies to assist in preserving items of heritage value.

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