Legislative Council: Wednesday, February 07, 2024


Feral Deer

The Hon. R.P. WORTLEY (14:52): My question is to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development. Can the minister update the council about the importance of feral deer eradication programs in South Australia?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:52): I thank the honourable member for his question and his ongoing concern about feral animals. As members should be aware, feral deer are a declared pest under the Landscape South Australia Act, which was enacted in 2019, requiring land managers to destroy feral deer from their land. This is done to protect primary industries, the natural environment and also road users from the impacts of feral deer.

Feral deer numbers across South Australia have been increasing, impacting agricultural regions across the state. In 2021, there was an estimated population of 40,000 feral deer, with projections that those numbers would increase to 200,000 by 2031 without a feral deer eradication program.

The simple fact is feral deer costs impact South Australia's primary production sector. In 2022, it was estimated that producers lost $36 million in agricultural productivity losses alone. Modelling predicts that this figure could blow out to close to a quarter of a billion dollars by 2031. Since the eradication program started in the Limestone Coast, over 6,500 feral deer in the Limestone Coast have been eradicated, which is, in terms of impact, the equivalent of 10,000 sheep grazing, so the removal of the equivalent pressure of 10,000 sheep in the region.

I am glad to say that the program is widely supported by the Limestone Coast community, in particular local farmers in the region who are already noticing the benefits of the reduced numbers of feral deer. During the 2022-23 eradication program in the Limestone Coast, the culling activities took place over a million hectares of land, which equates to 35 per cent of the total Limestone Coast landscape region. That included 20 private forestry plantations, 83 parks and forestry reserves, and more than 200 private properties.

It is my understanding that only one property in the region required an action order for works to be carried out. I might mention that an action order is a last resort. Property owners are given many opportunities to fulfill their responsibilities and comply with the law, the law which states that they must eradicate feral deer from their properties.

Given the high level of support for the program from the Limestone Coast community, along with the evidence of significant increases in agricultural productivity for farmers in the region, you would presume that this would enjoy bipartisan support, even more so given that the policy was created and signed off by the former environment minister and now Leader of the Opposition in the other place, but it appears this is not the case.

I am aware of the wild deer forum held in Naracoorte last weekend, which was attended by and spoken at by none other than the shadow minister for primary industries, as well as the Hon. Ben Hood, who I heard wants to be the new shadow minister for primary industries or is it new opposition leader in this place? I am not sure.

Members interjecting:


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: The landscape board offered to present at the meeting to share factual information, but this offer was declined by the organisers. At this meeting, it appears as though the shadow minister cast doubt over the effectiveness of the eradication program, which has led to a long list of farmers in the South-East—

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: Point of order: the minister is verballing me and I ask that she withdraw her comments.

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! To what point do you refer? What did she say that you want her to withdraw? Can you just tell me that?

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: The last point that the culling program has been ineffective.

The PRESIDENT: Minister, if that is incorrect, you can withdraw it.

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: If I may, for your consideration, Mr President, what I said was that at this meeting it appears as though the shadow minister cast doubt over the effectiveness of the eradication program, which has led to a long list of farmers in the South-East asking why the Liberal Party is no longer supporting the program.

We also saw the shadow minister spread misinformation by claiming that both the Deputy Premier and I had been invited but failed to attend; however, I can confirm that I was not invited to the event, so it appears as though the Liberal Party is waging a war on Limestone Coast farmers—

Members interjecting:


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: —by undermining the program. I understand that the Limestone Coast Landscape Board has been inundated with calls and emails from farmers concerned about the change of approach to feral deer eradication by the opposition. Indeed, I received a range of feedback from landowners in the region expressing support for the program. This one states:

As a landowner in the Furna area I wish to express…my strongest support for the eradication of feral deer in the Limestone Coast and our appreciation as food and fibre producers that we have the support of such a coordinated program. The need for this program has been established and must not be disrupted.

I have written to the Leader of the Opposition in the other place to ask him to clarify his party's position and, if necessary, to counsel the shadow minister about the benefits of the program. Despite the opposition to the program from members opposite, I am delighted to confirm that aerial culling operations in the Limestone Coast will occur once again in 2024. The culling will take place across the Limestone Coast, Murraylands and Riverland, Hills and Fleurieu, Northern and Yorke, Eyre Peninsula and Green Adelaide.

I urge members opposite to support feral deer eradication. It is so important for our farmers. I urge them to listen to what the farmers want us to do. I urge them to stop undermining the feral deer program and to support the eradication of this feral pest.