DEC admits it has to do better

Rebecca Turner

The Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) has admitted it has to do better to manage feral pest control on former pastoral leases, as well as improve communication between itself and the industry.

In its formal response to a parliamentary inquiry report on the management of leases in the State’s north, DEC tried to be upbeat, but said some problems needed urgent attention.

The findings of the inquiry released earlier this year said across 32 former leases, DEC had neglected its landholder responsibilities and allowed hundreds of animals to die, while encouraging the expansion of feral dog packs and allowing weeds to flourish.

The report also said DEC had not fully complied with the principles of the ‘Good Neighbour Policy’.

The inquiry was launched after pastoralists complained that wild dogs had overrun government-owned land.

Inquest chairman Mike Nahan said DEC had neglected its pest control responsibilities and contributed to the inhumane deaths of hundreds of animals.

Mr Nahan said the department had spent $13 million buying the land, but as little as 34 cents per hectare managing it, which was not good enough.

In its response, DEC said an audit of animal welfare risks on all former leases had been completed.

DEC added it had also allocated an additional $1 million each year to pastoral lease management, which started this financial year.

The department highlighted the joint funding announced in April by the State Government of $8.82 million over five years to fight wild dogs and to upgrade and extend the State Barrier Fence.

Of the 19 recommendations made in the report, DEC accepted 13 and agreed to parts of the others.

However, the department did not accept the recommendation that it stop acquiring pastoral leases until it had addressed problems with the rest.