Thursday 27 November 2019
Hansard of the Legislative Council
Wombats - Numbers
Mr FINCH question to LEADER of the GOVERNMENT in the LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL, Mrs HISCUTT
- What progress has the Government made in combating wombat mange in the past 12 months?
- What funds have been allocated to fight wombat mange in the past 12 months?
- How are wombat numbers calculated?
- Is there evidence wombat numbers are declining?
- Does the Government allow the culling of healthy wombats and if so why?
- Given Australia is now in the midst of a species extinction crisis, can the Government form a separate wildlife and environment department so these areas are not submerged below the competing interests of Primary Industries.
In other words, where is the 'W for wildlife' in the current Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment - DPIPWE - model?
Mr President, I thank the member for Rosevears for his question.
- The Government recognises mange is affecting wombats in some areas across the state and is supporting ongoing monitoring and research to address the issue. It is pleasing to note that at a statewide level, the wombat population has generally increased between 1985 and now. Recent surveys have also documented a low overall level of mange prevalence. In the past 12 months, the Government has undertaken targeted monitoring to enable assessment of the prevalence of mange.
We have also partnered with the University of Tasmania to research improved treatment options. The results of research over the past 12 months are promising, with wombats receiving the treatment showing remarkably rapid recovery. Field trials using the new treatment option will commence in the new year.
- In the past 12 months the Government has directed an additional $30 000 plus in-kind support to the University of Tasmania towards its work on mange treatments. This sits alongside the $100 000 the Government committed in 2017 to address wombat mange. The department has also continued to commit resources and effort to monitoring wombats, which includes annual statewide spotlight surveys, annual strategic targeted surveys to detect mange prevalence and various camera monitoring activities designed to monitor a range of wildlife, including wombats.
- Wombats are included in the statewide spotlight surveys that have been conducted annually since 1985.
- The DPIPWE spotlight survey data indicates wombat numbers have increased at a statewide level over the past 34 years. While mange has had a localised impact on wombat numbers in the West Tamar region, recent camera-trapping surveys undertaken by the department have shown that wombats still remain in the area, with mange-free wombats observed in the Narawntapu National Park over the last two years.
- In recognition of the impact of mange on wombats, the process for assessing crop protection permits involving wombats has been significantly tightened. This has resulted in a reduction in the number of permits issued for wombats from an average of 34 annually between 2010 and 2016 to zero in 2019, as at the 22 November 2019. In the West Tamar area crop reduction permits for wombats are no longer permitted.
Based on the evidence from long-term monitoring of wombat populations that demonstrate the statewide population is not declining, together with advice from the Chief Veterinary Officer, there is no justification to impose a blanket moratorium on crop protection permits for wombats in other areas with stable or increasing wombat populations.
- (6) The Government takes the responsibility and conservation of threatened species seriously and accordingly provides DPIPWE with significant resourcing for wildlife and threatened species matters.
This includes a specific Threatened Species Section Wildlife Operations, Marine Conservation Program and Conservation Assessment Section, for example, within the Natural and Cultural Heritage Division of the department. The Parks and Wildlife Service and the Inland Fisheries Service also address threatened species matters. Staff in all these areas are highly qualified and skilled professionals. The Tasmanian Government's commitment to threatened species and other wildlife protection is significant, ongoing and integrated, and the creation of a separate wildlife and environment department is not warranted.