By Tom McNish
FARMERS say bureaucrats have left them high and dry with a noxious weed problem.
South Gippsland and Bass Coast farmers gathered in Kernot on Wednesday to request urgent government help in dealing with noxious weeds such as ragwort, thistles and blackberries.
Farmers say the weed problem hasn’t been this bad since the early 1990s.
With the attendance of Cr Geoff Ellis and Bass MP Jordan Crugnale, local farmers made the request that irresponsible land owners must be held accountable for weed control on their properties.
Landcare’s Robbie Gray said the problem’s escalated over the last few years.
“Ragwort has been under increasing control over the past four years, however last year, likely due to a handful of irresponsible land owners, things have escalated,” Mr Gray said.
Local council can pursue land owners when property sizes are under 10 acres, however when they are over that size and deemed not to be an “eye-sore” the next government body responsible is the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR).
Well-known Landcare identity, Jeff Clark, said: “The only way we’re going to get anything done is if we get the government to stand up.”
David Walness from Jeetho reported spending over $10,000 a year on herbicide spray between his two properties.
“Things are hard enough as a farmer, the laws are there, but they aren’t being enforced,” he said.
Cr Ellis promised to find out why it isn’t being enforced.
According to multiple farmers, queries to the DEDJTR over ‘weed season’ have fallen on deaf ears.
Farmers say the employees are having extended Christmas breaks.
“Each ragwort plant can produce up to 150,000 seeds with many remaining viable for well over a decade,” said Department of Agriculture bio-security officer Haiden Greives.
“Failing to prevent ragwort seeding can result in the further spread of this species and increased weed control costs for years to come.”
Mr Grieves was also asked whether any noxious weed legislation had been acted on in the past year. He didn’t comment.
Nationals MP for Gippsland South, Danny O’Brien, said last week he’s also been contacted by a number of property owners about weeds.
Mr O’Brien said he has regularly raised the issue of weed eradication laws with the State Labor Government.
But he said it’s clearly not a problem the government is focused on.
“I’ve had contact from a number of people again, as I often do at this time of year, concerned about unmanaged weeds, particularly ragwort and blackberries and particularly in the South Gippsland Shire,” Mr O’Brien said.
“Weeds currently cost Australian farmers $4 billion each year through yield losses and product contamination and it’s a particular problem in parts of South Gippsland.
“I again call on the Andrews Labor Government to get out of the city and understand that this is a problem that needs to be addressed and slack land owners should be feeling the full force of the law.”
Ms Crugnale requested an account of the day’s discussion in an email to be sent to her, to formally pursue with the State Government.
According to State Government legislation, land owners can be fined $38,000 for contributing to land degradation which causes or may cause damage to land of another land owner, failure to eradicate regionally prohibited weeds; prevent the growth and spread of regionally controlled weeds on their land.