Farmers don’t have the capacity to wait four to six weeks for approval to control pests, which in a lot of cases, applications are eventually denied.
But that’s the amount of time producers are being forced to wait due to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s (DELWP) slow application process for Authority to Control Wildlife (ATCW) permits.
This delay can be devastating for farmers’ livelihoods, as kangaroos, ducks, and in some cases, wombats, deer and galahs, wreak havoc on their crops and grass.
After a six-week wait, Hillside farmer Murray Stewart received an ATCW permit to control kangaroo populations on his property, but when it came to ducks, the DELWP had no remorse.
“It took six weeks for someone to even come out and have a look. When they did come it was the middle of the day, which isn’t when the ducks are on the property,” Mr Stewart said.
“They couldn’t see the problem and wouldn’t give us [a permit].”
While being denied left him “gutted”, the most shocking part was the length of the process.
“DELWP doesn’t understand the damage that ducks can do overnight, it’s just too late for them to come out after four to six weeks, the damage is already done. They’re so slack, it’s unbelievable,” he said.
He said he needed to be able to control pest populations immediately following planting, because as soon as crops were in the ground pests destroyed it.
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Lindenow farmer Domenic Galati estimated ducks destroyed 25 per cent of his crops during winter, making them unable to be harvested.
Despite the damage equating to thousands of dollars of profits lost, Mr Galati was denied an ATCW permit.
“We applied for a permit in May, and four to six weeks later, had a couple of guys from the DELWP come and look, and on that particular day, there were no ducks there, so about two weeks later, we got a letter saying we were denied,” he said.
“We were trying to do the right thing by going through the correct channels but it felt like a waste of time.”
He said this was infuriating because while there were no ducks visible at inspection, “when they come in that night they wiped out a quarter of my crop”.
As winter came to an end, and tractor activity increased on the farm, the ducks began to disperse, but this was after a shocking amount of damage had been done.
“This year has been particularly bad, it’s dry and ducks are looking for food,” he said.
Mr Galati called on the government to simplify the permit process to help landholders in a timely manner.
“We need to be given a live permit that’s valid for 12 months because by the time you wait six weeks to hear back, the damage has already been done,” he said.
“I get it, they’re natural wildlife. I’m not trying to kill them for the fun of it, I’m just trying to protect my crops so I can supply our customers in Melbourne.”
Shane Cox had encountered the same difficulties on his Stratford, Lindenow and Perry Bridge properties, where he runs vegetable farms, and said after multiple failed attempts, applying for an ATCW permit was a “waste of time”.
“We’ve had major troubles with pests this year, especially in dry times, as they’re running out of other things to eat so are coming onto our crops,” Mr Cox said.
As well as costing the operation thousands of dollars, it’s impacted production.
“We’ve been missing orders because we can’t keep up with supply… we’re getting damage six weeks after we plant and we just can’t make it up,” he said.
He said it’s heartbreaking to not be able to do anything about it.
“The DELWP is just delaying the process, and taking five weeks to come out and inspect your property because they don’t want to give out permits,” he said.
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