PRIVATE MEMBERS STATEMENT - WILD DEER MANAGEMENT

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Mr RYAN PARK(Keira) (12:51:27): I speak about wild deer management in the Illawarra, particularly within the electorate of Keira. Wild deer have been present in the Illawarra for decades after being introduced as a game and companion species in the 1800s.

The majority of wild deer in the Wollongong local government area are Rusa deer. These deer are very social and are found in groups of up to 40 animals. Tragically, deer cause damage to a great deal of private property, create hazards for motorists and decimate the natural environment in the Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area and Royal National Park.

In our experience in the Illawarra, residential fences do not prevent deer from entering property—they simply jump the fence. Neither do deer recognise boundaries of local government areas, conservation areas, schools, main roads or train lines. In my electorate of Keira, constituents regularly report damage to private property and express concern about near-miss incidents on the roads. Illawarra residents who live near the escarpment know only too well the damage deer can cause to property and vehicles. For years, the numbers of deer have been allowed to grow and communities have been left to manage the problem in the best way they can.

TEMPORARY SPEAKER ( Mr Adam Crouch ): Order! I call the member for Kiama to order for the first time.

Mr RYAN PARK: In a recent report into pest management across New South Wales titled "Shared Problem, Shared Solutions", commissioned by the Premier, the Natural Resources Commission [NRC] estimated that farmers around the State spend around $22 million per year to manage pest animals. In the same report the NRC identified the Illawarra as a main hotspot in New South Wales requiring urgent attention in the management of wild deer. In fact, the NRC made a very clear recommendation for the Government to change the status of all species of deer from game to pest animal. This will give land managers and local government the power to take real action. It will enable consistent management across the State with appropriate control methods.

In the Illawarra Wollongong City Council has made significant efforts to control deer and has declared deer as a priority pest. However, this does not create enforcement powers, given that in New South Wales deer are still protected as a game species. Until recently council has been able to enlist assistance from the Northern Illawarra Wild Deer Management Program with its cross-tenure control measures. I understand that funding terminated at the end of June for this program, leaving the future of deer control in the Illawarra without leadership and without resourcing.

Break/hodges

Any local control efforts cannot have a real impact when adjoining tenures are not a part of the plan. Neither can they have a real impact when the Government continues to ignore wild deer as a serious pest, which they are. We need real leadership; broad support from the Government in the form of long-term funding, coordination and consistent regulation; and policy for deer management right across New South Wales. I have a number of specific questions that I put to the Minister for Primary Industries and the Minister for the Environment. Firstly, will the Government adopt the recommendations of the Natural Resources Commission to change the status of wild deer from game to pest species, in recognition of the serious social and economic impacts this pest has on communities in the Illawarra and across New South Wales? Secondly, what actions will the Government take to ensure decisive, well-funded, coordinated control programs will be in place in the Illawarra and across the State? Thirdly, what actions will the Government take to control deer in the Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area and the Royal National Park? Fourthly, what efforts will be made to ensure comprehensive consultation and coordination across tenures?

These are very real issues. Each year this continues to be a very serious problem. I want the Government to look at this, not just from an environmental point of view but also from an economic point of view because of the huge burden it has on local landowners and local residents. I understand—and I am sure the member for Kiama understands—that living close to the escarpment always has its challenges, particularly in terms of natural hazards, but we expect a government of any persuasion and of any day to make sure that serious action is taken to address this issue. This issue has got out of control within the Illawarra, particularly parts of the Illawarra. I call the Minister for Primary Industries and the Minister for the Environment to develop a very serious and real response to what is becoming a real problem within the community.

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