Wild Dog Control
Mr STEVE WHAN: My question without notice is addressed to the Minister for the Environment. What is the latest information on the Government's efforts to prevent stock losses from wild dog attacks in New South Wales, particularly in the Kosciuszko National Park region?
Mr BOB DEBUS: I am pleased to announce that, following effective lobbying by the honourable member and a request by the New South Wales Farmers' Association, aerial baiting for wild dogs will be expanded in southern New South Wales. In particular, aerial baiting will now occur in an area of Kosciuszko National Park adjoining Snowy Plains and Rocky Plains. This is in addition to aerial baiting that has been occurring in the nearby Adaminaby-Yaouk area. These runs will provide additional protection for livestock from attacks by wild dogs. Officers from the Department of Environment and Conservation have met with landholders from the Snowy Plains and Rocky Plains Wild Dog Association and the Cooma Rural Lands Protection Board to plan how and when the runs should take place in that area. At this stage, I anticipate that aerial baiting will occur over the next three weeks.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Members of the Opposition will come to order.
Mr BOB DEBUS: These new runs are needed because, despite an intensive ground baiting and trapping program in the area, landholders continue to sustain stock losses. I anticipate positive results from this more intensive feral animal control work, and a consequent reduction in stock losses. That has certainly been our experience in other parts of the State. Because of this Government's wild dog eradication programs, stock losses, for instance in the nearby Wee Jasper area, have dropped by 75 per cent since the Co-operative Wild Dog Plan was adopted in 2002. That plan involves the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the rural lands protection boards and private landholders working together. At the same time, some areas around Glen Innes reported a drop in stock losses of around 65 per cent. As we have heard in the last several minutes, on this issue more than most The Nationals are inclined to make hysterical allegations. The Nationals' claim that feral animals—
Mr Andrew Stoner: Point of order: I would just like the Minister—
Mr SPEAKER: What is your point of order?
Mr Andrew Stoner: —to tell us how many wild dogs there are in Balmain.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is no point of order. The Minister has the call.
Mr BOB DEBUS: The claim of some of those opposite that feral animals somehow originate in national parks trivialises an important issue and is, of course, demonstrably ridiculous. Australia's introduced animals date from the very first days of European settlement. Ever since that time animals not indigenous to this country have been brought from other places and released into the Australian environment, sometimes with good intentions and sometimes not. When our first national parks were formally created from the late 1960s onward, pest animals were already well established across the whole landscape. Of course, people dump thousands of unwanted caps and dogs every year and many of them end up in national parks, as they end up in other bushland. Pig shooters, illegally hunting in the bush—sometimes in national parks—sometimes intentionally release dogs or pigs, without caring at all about what will happen next. After just a few years in the wild, these released animals become feral cats, wild dogs and feral pigs. They kill our wildlife and also savage livestock on neighbouring farms.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service plays an absolutely vital role in controlling feral animals on its estate. Contrary to the warped interpretation by those opposite, the recent New South Wales State of the Parks Report found that in more than 90 per cent of parks across New South Wales, the problems caused by pest animals were either being reduced or held steady. That is to say, in less than 10 per cent of national parks problems were getting worse. That, of course, is exactly where more resources will be allocated to control the problem into the future. That is the point of having the State of the Parks Report. I assert that, in the meantime, feral animal and weed problems are far less acute in national parks generally than they are across most other land in this State.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Lismore will come to order.
Mr BOB DEBUS: The honourable member for Lismore is consumed by his own prejudice, but does not understand the simple fact. In this financial year the Department of Environment and Conservation will spend $18 million across the State on the control of feral animals and weeds. That is a record amount. I have mentioned before in this House that from 1991 to 1995 the Coalition allocated a mere $4.2 million for pest management in national parks. That is $1 million a year, compared with $18 million that this Government is spending. This year the National Parks and Wildlife Service is to carry out 1,500 pest animal and weed programs across the State, including the additional aerial baiting runs I have just announced. The Coalition displays its prejudice against conservation and national parks not only in respect of feral animals. Consider bushfires, which are just beginning again as Spring advances. Of the thousands of bushfires that burn every year—most of them caused by lightning or arson—only a small fraction start in national parks.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will come to order.
Mr BOB DEBUS: The Coalition, of course, would like us to think that the opposite is true. Members opposite are welcome to look at the statistics. These are the facts. During the memorably intense 2003-04 fire season, there were 5,600 wildfires in New South Wales, and only 263 of them occurred inside a national park. The year before, there were 7,700 wildfires in the State, and only 433 of them occurred inside a national park. In other words, for those two years, a mere 5 per cent of all New South Wales bushfires burned inside a national park. And even then, over the last 10 years, 68 per cent of the bushfires that started in a national park were extinguished inside the park. Only a small proportion escaped and burned onto adjoining property—in fact, a mere 10 per cent. More than twice as many, or 22 per cent—a lot of them in the honourable member for Lismore's part of the world—actually burned into the national park from adjoining private land.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Murray-Darling will come to order.
Mr BOB DEBUS: The overwhelming majority of bushfire ignitions in New South Wales in the two worst bushfire seasons on record happened outside national parks. Of those that occurred inside national parks, 70 per cent were extinguished. Of the fires that were left, two left private land and came onto national park land for every fire that went the other way. In this respect, the Coalition cannot give up its obsession with myth making and distortion. I do not entirely understand why, because a satisfactory approach to these kinds of problems—that is to say, looking after the bush and landscape in this State—involves complex and concerted responses, and all agencies and landowners working together co-operatively. I try to do that, whereas the Coalition does not.