Tuesday 18 October 2016
Hansard of the Legislative Council

Wombat Mange


Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, I spoke in my special interest speech at this time last week about the problem of wombat mange in Tasmania and how it was being tackled in one small community in my electorate.  The problem, and the cure, is much bigger than that.

It is so much bigger that I am alarmed.  The problem of wombat mange and the declining population of this tourism icon, a very appealing Tasmanian creature, could be worse than the Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease.  We know far too little and most of the Tasmanian public seem blissfully unaware.  We are talking about local extinction.

It is hard to quantify the wombat mange problem.  There is only one small research team pursuing it, and without state government funding.  Scott Carver, a University of Tasmania lecturer in wildlife ecology, has been surveying in the Narawntapu National Park in my electorate since 2009.  He is assisted by two PhD students:  Allyn Martin and Tamieka Fraser.  The results are alarming:  94 per cent of the wombat population in the National Park have died.  That is in Narawntapu, alone.  Scott says it would be hard to provide scientific answers on whether Tasmanian wombats, overall, are in population decline without a statewide survey.  It is absolutely urgent.  We cannot wait for a survey.  We have to act immediately.

The community effort at Kelso, which I spoke of last week, with its ingenious pole and scoop installations to administer treatment could be a model for similar action through the state.  Community projects which start at the grassroots and work upwards are almost always more effective than top-down action.  They need some support and funding, which needs to come from the government.  As I mentioned last week, I was pleased the honourable Leader met with that group in Kelso and spoke with them about that circumstance.

The Tasmanian Wildlife Rehabilitation Council is the ideal body to coordinate a statewide expansion of this battle against sarcoptic mange.  A member of the Kelso community effort, John Harris, has outlined to me how the mange project could be expanded -

Establish a body to take on the [statewide] project.  Grain mass awareness in all areas where Wombat Mange is identified.  Record the locations and ensure appropriate paper work shows treatment zones and numbers.  Train volunteers in pole and scoop installations.  Ask Councils and schools to get involved.  Approach TFGA to get buy-in from landowners.  Then install, treat, monitor and report.

John Harris has also suggested a dedicated YouTube channel showing how to make and manage scoop installations and other aspects of the wombat mange.

The Tasmanian Wildlife Rehabilitation Council says -

While there has been no government funding provided, nor survey data sought by authorities as to the impact of mange on wombats, anecdotally tourists are appalled at the suffering they see on travelling around Tasmania. 

You might ask if this terrible problem in the Narawntapu National Park could be duplicated statewide.  The council says there is evidence of widespread infestation, wombat suffering and fatalities in the north-east, east and south of the state, through the Midlands, in and around Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, the Burnie hinterland and on Flinders Island.

Ms Rattray - Most of my electorate, honourable member.

- Most of your electorate.  It is a cause for concern.

Ms Rattray
 - It is.

- I did mention Cradle Mountain.  At the start of the Overland Track near Ronny Creek there are numerous wombats which are very popular with tourists.  For the tourism industry, if for nothing else, the Government needs to support every effort to eliminate wombat mange from Tasmania.  It is an introduced mange, by the way, it is not natural.  The Government must act now to stop this suffering.