Plan to tackle pests with work for the dole projects

The Federal Nationals MP Mark Coulton has backed a Landcare plan to train work-for-the-dole participants in pest animal management in the state’s west.

The Land Newspaper reported while Mid-Macquarie Landcare hopes to fast-track its ambitious proposal – both federal and state government representatives have warned the group no not to underestimate the skills needed to manage feral animals, and handle baits and poisons.

Local chairman Cameron Tomkins said his Landcare group had seen success on public land in the Dubbo, Wellington, Coolah and Dunedoo regions last year after employing a project manager to find and coordinate rural work-for-the-dole projects. But Mr Tomkins said a lack of available projects meant the group was now chasing its own idea to tackle local pest management and unemployment issues in one hit.

He saw the project working as an agriculturally-themed Green Army – though funded by the social services budget instead – to supplement the work of Local Land Services (LLS) employees, who, he said, were “thin on the ground”.

“Getting this started yesterday would be good,” Mr Tomkins said. “The problem’s right now. And everything’s in place, we’ve got people who are passionate about it, we’ve just got to go and do it.”

Mid-Macquarie Landcare’s proposal would see participants trained in small teams to trap, bait, and properly handle a variety of pest species – including wild dogs, feral cats, foxes, goats, pigs, as well as kangaroos. Mr Tomkins said consultation was planned with natural resource management bodies, as well as state environmental and agriculture departments, local councils, farm industry groups, and Aboriginal Land Councils and community enterprises.

Parkes MP Mr Coulton said he would back the idea if the appropriate training was sourced for participants.

“I think it’s got merit – for sure – any opportunity to train unemployed people to skills in agriculture is a good thing,” he said. “But I’ve dealt with my fair share of pests in my time. A word of caution would be that pest animal management is a very specialised job. It is important not to undersell the dangers involved.”

NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair said LLS welcomed partnership opportunities and regularly worked with private and government stakeholders to develop vertebrate pest management plans and co-operative management programs.

With all this said it would be nice to see LAFO utilised on public land to control these feral populations.

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