Red tape the biggest pest

FARMERS across the region are fighting one-handed against serial pests as bureaucracy – arguably the worst pest of all – binds the other hand with regulations.

Councillor Ross Bartley yesterday took a break from toying with a scare gun to show the Daily News the remains of a piece of his corn, ravished by crows at his Junabee property.

“We need to protect our livelihoods,” he said.

Once the scare gun is up and running it will be transported to his corn field where it will let out intermittent shots to scare pests.

“It’s not just crows. Any kind of birds can harm cereal crops.

“You don’t know when these things are going to come, it can be day or night,” Cr Bartley said.

The boom of the scare gun is loud and echoes past the Bartleys’ land and rolls on for a couple of kilometres.

“We don’t exactly love the noise either, but we need them,” he said.

“I’ve run them all night in the past to keep the wild dogs away when we had lambs.”

This week there was lengthy debate in council’s planning committee meeting after a report suggesting guidelines on scare guns and hail cannons was presented.

Cr Bartley said he had a perceived conflict of interest because he used scare guns himself. He then criticised the conservative report.

“It’s not a choice producers have,” he told fellow councillors.

“The problem is when people move into the farmers’ backyards. Things are quiet for a while, but if we have to protect our crops this kind of thing is our normal activity.”

Planning staff say they struggle each time they receive a scare gun and hail cannon complaint as there are no guidelines and council deals with complaints on a case-by-case basis.

The guidelines put before councillors were based on Environmental Protection Agency policy, the body previously responsible for controlling “environmental nuisances” such as scare guns.

Cr Peter Blundell said the tone of the guidelines was wrong and asked for the operating times of scare guns to be extended.

“We are an agricultural area and our policy guidelines have to say we will primarily protect agriculture,” he said.

Cr Vic Pennisi said he was totally against putting time restrictions on the scare guns.

“Deer, ducks and foxes don’t distinguish between day and night,” he said.

Planning director Ken Harris said the idea of the guidelines was to help staff dismiss complaints if farmers were operating within them and complaints could still come before council if they were out of the regulations.

The department agreed to change the wording of the guidelines for reconsideration at next week’s general meeting.

Wednesday’s general meeting looks set to be a fiery affair, after heated debate on the control of wild dogs was cut short at the committee meetings.

Councillors attended a vocal meeting at Greymare Hall, organised by the Mountain Maid Wild Dog Control Association.

As reported in the Bush Telegraph, more than 50 landholders described the “soul destroying” impact wild dogs were having on their livelihoods.

There were calls for council to increase the bounty from $50 to $100 to encourage producers who currently spent an exuberant amount of time trapping dogs, which is seen as the best solution.

And Cr Ross Bartley’s personal opinion is the same.

He’s vowing to fight for the increase tooth and nail to stop the devastation as he knows first hand what it’s like to deal with wild dogs.

“It feels like you’ve been robbed after an attack,” Cr Bartley said.

“That’s why we don’t run sheep anymore. You simply can’t do it on these mountains.”

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