Councillor takes a stand against 'big stick' scheme
A SOUTHERN Downs councillor has taken a stand against a controversial pest management scheme that taxes landowners in an effort to stamp out invasive pests.
Vic Pennisi is calling for an incentive-based scheme to replace the council's big-stick approach to pest management, in which landowners are charged a minimum $500 levy.
Cr Pennisi voted against the council's Invasive Pest Control Scheme Overall Plan in a special meeting yesterday.
"I am not against the pest management scheme, but I don't support the way we have implemented it,” Cr Pennisi said.
"I think an incentive-based scheme could have allayed a lot of the fear and the angst.”
Changes to the scheme, voted in by all other councillors, will see 561 properties classed "commercial and industrial - town” removed from the IPSC eligibility list.
The process will now be more streamlined with the Completed Works Form scrapped from the scheme and online Control Work Form online.
Mayor Tracy Dobie said despite consternation from landowners, the scheme was fair and successful.
She said the principle of an incentive-based program sounded nice, but the money would "have to come from somewhere”.
"We chose the option to impose a levy on all and immediately reimburse that levy,” the Mayor said.
"There is no cost to any landholder who shows they are taking steps to manage invasive pests and at the same time there is no increase in rates or stress on the budget.”
But Stanthorpe landowner Sue Johnson said the council's approach was "all stick and no carrot”.
"Anything that gives people money back is a good idea, rather than slapping a great big fine on for people.”
She the added threat of a levy put extra pressure on farmers who were already suffering in drought.
Ms Johnson said the council should consider a rate rebate for landowners who complied with the IPCS.
"There has got to be a better way.”
Cr Pennisi asked to have his vote against the scheme recorded, saying the council was premature in assuming an incentive-based scheme would cost too much.
"We cannot begin to consider what an incentive may be because we haven't had a discussion yet.”
Deputy mayor Jo McNally said the IPCS had been successful.
"Agriculture is our number one business and we need to protect it in the future,” she said.
"We did see lots of people fill out the forms and now it will be even simpler in upcoming years.”