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Forests paying ‘deerly’ from culling policy backflip

The South Australian Opposition has been accused of walking away from the feral deer culling policy in the State’s South East. Source: Timberbiz

Forest Industries Minister Clare Scriven said Shadow Minister for Primary Industries, Nicola Centofanti and Shadow Assistant Minister for Regional South Australia, Ben Hood are seemingly walking away from the feral deer culling policy, which is strongly supported by both landowners and local Landscape Boards.

She said information provided to the Government from attendees at a meeting in Naracoorte involving an interstate MP representing shooters and other recreational shooters from around the state indicates that Ms Centofanti questioned the value and effectiveness of the feral deer eradication policy, while also spreading misinformation that Government Ministers were invited and chose not to attend.

“Ms Centofanti seems to have conveniently forgotten the fact that under the former Marshall Liberal Government, now Liberal Leader and former Environment Minister, David Speirs introduced legislation to ensure that concerns raised by landowners about the impacts of feral deer could be addressed,” Ms Scriven said.

“I urge the Shadow Minister to stop waging a war with Limestone Coast farmers who are working incredibly hard and simply want to work with Government to minimise the damage that is being done to their properties by the vast number of feral deer.

“I have written to David Speirs to bring this important issue to his attention and urge him to counsel his Shadow Minister about joining with a minor party NSW MP to undermine the deer culling policy and failing to stand up for our hardworking farmers.

“If feral deer populations continue to increase, farmers in the Limestone Coast are facing a quarter of a billion dollars in lost agricultural productivity in less than a decade from now.”

Nathan Paine, Chief Executive Officer of the South Australian Forest Products Association, said Feral Deer Eradication Program was a critical service to protect, support and empower the State’s agricultural industries in the Limestone Coast, particularly the forest and timber industries.

“Without this program, our industry would be at risk of suffering significant long-term financial and property loss, as these feral animals destroy or damage our crop and plantation trees,” Mr Paine said.

“Over the past 10 years, South Australia’s forest industries have lost a total of 30,000 hectares due to unfair policies such as water allocations, and an additional 20,000 hectares lost due to bushfires, we simply cannot afford more loss due to feral pests such as feral deer. We applaud the State Government and the Landscape Board for delivering this program to protect our industry specifically and all agricultural industries and regional communities generally.

“The forest industries were grateful to have the aerial culling program in the South East forestry estate, which in 2023 removed a total of 2,239 feral deer from the southern forestry estate, predominantly through the aerial culling program which removed 1610 feral deer,” he said.

“We need to ensure that every seedling we plant today has the best chance to grow into a tree tomorrow that can be harvested and processed into critical fibre products such as house frames.”