Legislative Council: Wednesday, July 03, 2019


Parliamentary Committees

Natural Resources Committee: Management of Overabundant and Pest Species

The Hon. T.J. STEPHENS (16:17): I move:

That the report of the committee, on an inquiry into management of overabundant and pest species, be noted.

In 2018, the Natural Resources Committee commenced an inquiry to understand and review the current framework for the management of overabundant and pest species in South Australia. South Australia is home to numerous unique natural assets, many of which are adversely impacted by the occupancy of overabundant and pest species.

This is not the first parliamentary inquiry on this topic in South Australia, with a number of recent inquiries highlighting the ongoing interest in managing and preserving natural assets in the short and long term. This specific inquiry commenced in 2018. It seeks to review the efficacy of the current legislative policy and partnering programs currently in place and their strength in protecting our state's natural assets. The aim of the inquiry was to understand whether any other approaches may provide more effective alternatives.

The committee began by inviting submissions in relation to the cost of managing overabundant pest species in South Australia. Costs include impact on agriculture, animal welfare, communities, ecosystems and biodiversity. Supplementary to the submissions, the committee also visited Meningie in the Coorong region. In this regional meeting the committee heard evidence from 12 witnesses and received 44 submissions.

Through the regional visit and the number of submissions received, the committee was able to begin to understand the complexity of the problem in managing overabundant and pest species. There is no consensus on how to manage a wide range of different species that negatively affect our natural assets; however, the inquiry has helped outline the challenges that exist in formulating a successful management approach. These challenges include:

divergent opinions among stakeholders about how overabundant and pest species should be best managed;

varying levels of understanding about the roles and responsibilities of parties involved in managing overabundant and pest species;

limitations in resourcing to manage overabundant and pest species; and

a need for more research into best practice management approaches.

Stakeholder responses to the inquiry have highlighted that there is varying interest in the management of any species. The balancing of these interests is difficult. Communication and education about managing overabundant and pest species will prove to be an important element in balancing these varying opinions in the community. What also became apparent in the inquiry was the variance in understanding about parties' responsibilities in the current management system.

Stakeholders expect and assume that the government will manage overabundant and pest species and then enforce compliance. This is not currently the case. The committee heard that our state's biodiversity requires us to act on overabundant species. The clearing of native vegetation has in part created an environment which fosters some species to breed to the point of overabundance. Some species, such as little corellas and kangaroos, pose significant challenges for the environment in South Australia. The population of these two species have inflated to the point where they are affecting South Australia's environment and are costing the state in other ways, such as agriculture outputs.

Specifically, kangaroo populations may require substantial reductions. How to ethically achieve these reductions in kangaroo populations is a point of contention. However, the committee realised that urgent attention is required to strengthen the markets for kangaroo products to allow for better utilisation of non-commercial harvested carcasses. Further inquiry should be undertaken by the South Australian government to examine the validity and challenges of developing a more robust industry for kangaroo products. The South Australian government could also investigate industries arising from the use of overabundant carp from the River Murray.

The South Australian government should have the power to respond to a circumstance where a population of a species inflates to the point of overabundance and impacts the environment. This power does not currently exist. The committee agrees that the power should be in the form of a declaration from the Minister for Environment and Water. This ministerial declaration would trigger urgent management. The committee heard that species that could be considered for a ministerial declaration include western grey kangaroos, little corellas, long-nosed fur seals and koalas.

The South Australian government must engage with stakeholders to build a mutual understanding on how to tackle this problem. Clarity is important to achieve outcomes, because although action should be government led, it is most likely to be local stakeholders such as the national parks service and Aboriginal communities fulfilling this action. Overabundant species are a problem for South Australia and it requires a sustained effort from all stakeholders and the state government. Long-term funding is needed to control overabundant species, research their populations and prevent their environmental impacts.

The committee would like to thank all the stakeholders who contributed to this inquiry. I also recognise my colleagues for their contribution to the committee and this report: the Presiding Member, Mr Josh Teague MP; and members of the committee, Mr David Basham MP, Mr Nick McBride MP, Dr Susan Close MP, the Hon. John Darley MLC and the Hon. Russell Wortley MLC. Finally, thank you to Mr Philip Frensham, our committee secretary, and the extremely capable Dr Monika Stasiak for their assistance to the committee. I commend the report to the chamber.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.