Changes to unprotection order law

GIPPSLAND’S livestock industry could eventually be at risk of more wild dog attacks, with recent changes in the state’s dingo ‘unprotection order’ laws, an anti-dingo campaigner believes.

The state government said last month that effective from March 14, a dingo ‘unprotection’ order will end in north-west Victoria and will remain in place in eastern Victoria until October 1, 2024.

The wild dog component of the current Fox and Wild Dog Bounty Program will also not continue in the north-west, although there will be no changes to the fox bounty in the region.

The government said the decisions follow new research, strong advice and the effectiveness of non-lethal dingo control methods to protect livestock.

Victoria’s Wildlife Act (1975) Order In Council ‘unprotects’ the dingo on private land, and on public land within three kilometres of the private land boundaries to public lands, enabling baiting and trapping.

The government said it is helping protect a vulnerable population of dingoes in Victoria’s north-west while ensuring farmers are able to protect their livestock. Farmers in the north-west will be supported by a $550,000 investment to adopt alternate non-lethal control methods via a pilot of measures, such as exclusion fencing and guardian animals.

This funding would also support the management of other pests including feral goats, wild pigs and foxes, the state government said.

Outside the north-west, in other parts of Victoria, dingo control measures will remain unchanged – giving stability to farmers in need of protecting their livestock, the government said. And the review into the government’s wild dog management policies will be finalised in the next six months and consider the new research alongside the impacts on livestock.

The chair of the National Wild Dog Management Coordination Committee, Geoff Power, said the government’s decision had left sheep and cattle producers in the region ill-equipped to prevent wild dog attacks on their livestock.

Mr Power said the decision could have a severe impact on livestock producers in the north-west region, and it was extremely disappointing that industry was not involved or consulted in this decision.

“The economic and environmental impacts of wild dogs are significant, not to mention the emotional toll on producers when they experience attacks on their livestock,” he said.

“Removing the dingo unprotection order in the north-west could be the first step in undermining the state’s $4.5 billion sheep and wool industry and the 9200 jobs that it provides for Victorian residents.”

With the dingo unprotection order remaining in place for eastern Victoria until October 1, 2024, Mr Power said industry would continue its attempts to engage with the state government during the remainder of the review process.

“For industry, it’s not about eradication of dingoes, it’s about control. While this decision is devastating for producers in north-west Victoria, the NWDAP coordination committee is hopeful that it can work with the Victorian government during the remaining six months of the review to find a balanced approach to wild dog control in the state,” Mr Power said.

The National Wild Dog Management Plan Coordinator, Greg Mifsud, said without the ‘unprotection’ order in north-west Victoria, it’s only a matter of time before wild dogs spread to other parts of western Victoria.

“For industry, this decision is the realisation of their worst fears – of being almost powerless to protect the welfare of their animals from wild dog attacks. It begs the question of when does the welfare of one animal trump the welfare of another?” he said.

“The reality is that the dingo unprotection order provides a balance between wild dog control and dingo conservation. The order only operates in 1.6 million of the 4.7 million hectares of public lands in the east and northwest of the state, leaving over 3.1 million hectares of public lands including state forest and national park where dingoes are free from lethal control.”

The Animal Protection Organisation, Humane Society International (HSI), welcomed the government’s decision, the introduction of control permits and the cessation of the bounty of $120 per dingo pelt.

HSI Australia’s head of campaigns, Nicola Beynon, said the body congratulated the Allan government for bringing “these callous and outdated dingo measures” to an end in north-west Victoria.

“Now we need to see an end to the unprotection order in the rest of the state,” she said.

“Dingoes are an important apex predator in the landscape and are of high conservation value due to their cultural significance and evolutionary role in regulating ecosystems.

“They are intrinsically linked to the health of many ecosystems, and by suppressing cat and fox activity, can have a much-needed positive impact on the survival of many other Australian species.

“We are pleased to see funding for landholders to assist with non-lethal measures for dingo management. With native wildlife under serious pressure in our landscapes, we can no longer be complacent about their survival, let alone incentivise them being killed.”

Last year, HSI Australia published a guidebook for landholders called Predator Smart Farming that outlines non-lethal strategies for dingo management.

One such strategy is the use of guardian animals, like Maremma dogs and donkeys, to protect farmed animals from predators.

HSI said the partial revocation of the unprotection order comes as Animals Australia prepares a court case to challenge the order across the state.

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Gippsland Farmer

The Gippsland Farmer is a monthly agricultural newspaper reporting on rural news and distributed FREE and direct to an area covering from Cann River through to South Gippsland. For more than 40 years Gippsland Farmer has reported on a range of issues and industries including dairy, beef, vegetables, sheep, goats, poultry, organic farming, and viticulture.