Community groups, such as Mount Worth & District Landcare Group, are expected to take on a role that State Government used to, and still should do, under Economic Development, Jobs, Transport & Resources (DEDJTR), I believe.
Some years ago, the then department of a different name, delisted ragwort and blackberries from its notifiable weeds list.
Since then, combined with good seasons, there has been a proliferation of these weeds in some areas.
Mount Worth is in the Stzelecki Ranges and borders Baw Baw and South Gippsland Shires.
Prior to the rules changing, department officers could inspect and recommend to land owners that they spray, and if not, issue fines accordingly.
Now that notification is not an issue, the department is relying on community groups, such as the Mount Worth Landcare Group, to be the overseer of what officers used to do.
However, they cannot give warnings, nor issue fines.
The more disturbing issue is that it pits neighbours against neighbours and can lead to aggravation, and at times even worse.
My question is, why should producers, or community groups, become the watchdog for the government, especially when it can pit one neighbour against another?
At what level, or when does the DEDJTR step in? In my opinion, it would be too late to stop any serious aggravation, which could lead to permanent damage between neighbours.
There is another issue I want to draw to the attention of State Government, and that is that of Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP).
In the past, when I was working in saleyards, there was one or two permanent animal welfare officers stationed at saleyards.
This was to cover a myriad of issues around animal health. Since the introduction of electronic identification tags, department staffing has dwindled to only infrequent visits.
On one of these visits to a regular cow sale, department officers identified two cows, belonging to two different producers, as being unfit to travel and ordered them destroyed.
Two things come to mind here.
First, the producer has deemed them fit to travel, as did the livestock carrier.
When being drafted for sale, the agent thought it best to treat privately with a processor and have them sent for slaughter.
Both the agent and processor considered them safe to travel.
However, this was not the decision of the department officers. No, they must be put down by a knackery, and not moved from where they were.
I have video of the two cows that were put down, and while I am not an expert, I have been in the industry for over 45 years, and I would have thought them safe to travel, without any undue duress.
Second, department officers, who only attend saleyards indiscriminately, and potentially miss any number of animals in that period, consider it right to create an issue where a direct loss of income occurs to a producer.
Nobody will argue that a department officer has a job to do, and one can always argue their decision, but at least attend every sale, or not at all.
Or maybe I should stop living in the past.