Let’s face it, local councils aren’t adequately funded to manage roadside pests, weeds and fuel loads.
Take a drive down most roads and you’ll see unwanted weeds and fuel loads that turn roads into death traps during a major bushfire.
Unmanaged roads impact a farmer’s ability to protect their production from invasive plant and animal species.
So what can be done? Rural councils get up to $50,000 a year to manage roadsides. That’s barely enough to do their planning let alone effectively carry out their obligations.
The VFF has lobbied hard for more resourcing for roadside management, but neither side of politics is willing to make any major commitment.
The funding is due to finish in June 2015 and its unknown what resources will be made available for councils into the future.
What we need is a roadside management partnership between councils, VicRoads and landholders.
Engaging the community, farmers and public land managers is a way to reduce resource burden on public authorities and be more effective.
Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs) are already working with landholders and Landcare to invest in riparian works such as the removal of willows and revegetation to improve environmental conditions.
There’s no reason why we can’t do the same with roadsides.
The biggest challenge we face is the plethora of agencies and legislation that cover roadsides. There are multiple pieces of legislation at all levels of Government that create barriers for both private and public land managers in controlling vegetation on roadsides.
There is the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, the Victorian Planning Provisions, Local Overlays and Local Laws. Then depending on the road, the responsible public body may be VicRoads or the Local Council.
We need to cut through this red tape to create a simple model that utilises farmers as a resource to effectively reduce fuel loads and manage weeds and pests.
Highly productive relationships exist between CMAs, Landcare and landholders for a range of activities. Why can’t this happen on roadsides?
We’re talking a simple agreement stipulating what the landholder adjacent to a roadside can and can’t do.
The agreement needs to give farmers the appropriate framework to carry out works on behalf of the council without running the risk of legal liability conflicts.
There are opportunities to extend resourcing to farmers for the better management of weeds and pests and fuel load reduction.