Increased support for controlling pests

Biosecuirty Officer Richard Ali setting traps in the Upper Hunter. Photo courtesy of Hunter Local Land Services
Biosecuirty Officer Richard Ali setting traps in the Upper Hunter. Photo courtesy of Hunter Local Land Services

With an increased focus on supporting landholders to control pest species in the region, Hunter Local Land Services operational spending on pest control for 2017/18 is up 400 per cent on the budget from four years ago.

The increased funds are part of a $1.4 million annual program to control pest animals across the region, through best practice pest management plans and control programs.

In reality that means more biosecurity officers on the ground, coordinating an increased number of control programs and providing training and skills opportunities for landholders.

“We have increased our staffing levels and expertise throughout the region, to better help the community meet their biosecurity requirements to control pest species on their land,” Biosecurity Team Leader Luke Booth said .

“The number of targeted programs has increased dramatically over the last 12 months and will continue to increase.

“We have more than doubled the number of trapping schools and invasive species awareness days to meet demand,” he said.

Hunter Local Land Services has also trained and accredited more 300 landholders in the safe and legal use of 1080 in the last 18 months. This accreditation is provided free of charge and lasts for five years.

To encourage wider community participation across tenure, the organisation provides baits for controlling wild dogs and foxes to accredited landholders at no charge.

Recently in the Upper Hunter 28 neighbouring properties engaged for the first time in a combined baiting program, targeting wild dogs and foxes through the use of 1080 baiting. The combined properties covered a large area from Wingen to Scone and across to Belltrees. The group worked with newly recruited Biosecurity Officer Jonathan Randle to put out more than 1500 baits over a two week period. The landholders are now planning to conduct a follow-up program this autumn, to coincide with a local aerial baiting program. These programs protect sheep and cattle, and also reduce impacts of foxes and wild dogs on native species.

Aerial programs are a key component of regional control programs, however to keep down the costs to landholders, Hunter Local Land Services funds the use of the aircraft. Increased operational funds enabled Hunter Local Land Services and local Wild Dog Associations to implement the largest and most targeted aerial baiting program to date in 2017, with a bigger and better program planned for 2018.

Hunter Local Land Services has also engaged a peri-urban officer, Carolyn Jenkinson, who is working specifically with local government and other industry partners supporting landholders on the rural fringe of local communities. Key issues include weed and pest control, with an $80,000 targeted rabbit control program planned for 2018.

Biosecurity officers want landholders to report any hotspots for pest species, to help determine locations for further combined control programs. Helping landholders meet their biosecurity requirements is a key role of the biosecurity team in the Hunter region.