Victorian primary producers have welcomed new laws allowing livestock owners to voluntarily establish extra biosecurity measures on their properties, to protect them from trespassers.
Changes to the Livestock Management Act 2010 and Livestock Management Regulations 2021 have introduced offences for non-compliance with prescribed biosecurity measures, including entering agricultural premises without consent.
Offenders will face on-the-spot fines of $1294 for individuals and $8321 for organisations, the toughest fines in Australia.
Further penalties of up to $11,095 for individuals and $55,476 for organisations could apply for more serious offending.
Agriculture Victoria Agriculture Regulatory Policy executive director Angela Brierley said the new laws would help to deter people from trespassing on farms and better enable prosecutions of trespassers.
"Victorian farmers work hard to keep their animals safe and protect them from pests and diseases with robust biosecurity systems," Ms Brierley said.
"These new laws seek to deter behaviour that puts that hard work and the safety of their animals at risk."
Shepparton vet and livestock producer Angus McKinnon said the changes to regulations governing camping on crown land riverfront leases meant many farmers would now take up the extra biosecurity measures.
"My guess is the legislation is aimed at animal activists and having more power to stop people entering private properties for inappropriate reasons," Mr McKinnon said.
"Activists are entering properties because they want to find information that will reflect negatively on farming."
He welcomed anything that enabled farmers to protect their livestock from inappropriate biosecurity threats.
"Their [the activists'] motives are not balanced, in any way, shape or form, so I think that biosecurity laws are important - if you can't prevent trespass, you need to police it with regulations that are clear," he said.
Previous penalties were inappropriate, he said.
"They walk away with a slap on the hand," he said
"It appears a straightforward, good response - they are not going onto the farm to go fishing, they are going onto the farm to fish for problems."
Ms Brierley said producers choosing to take advantage of the new protections must have a biosecurity management plan (BMP) that included a farm map and mandatory information, as well as compliant biosecurity signage.
Specific visitor consent procedures must also be followed under the new laws.
"Producers who already have an on-farm biosecurity plan in place can simply add a BMP coversheet to this plan to be covered by the new laws," she said.
"We recommend using the BMP coversheet templates available from our website to ensure all mandatory information is included."
Victorian Farmers Federation Livestock group president Steve Harrison said for far too long primary producers had been treated like second-class citizens, when it came to trespass laws.
"Enough is enough," Mr Harrison said.
"But we have to play our role as well, and its imperative farmers do have a biosecurity plan and have signs in place - it's a two way street."
Read more: Farm trespass akin to home invasion: VFF
Mr Harrison said the new legislation was a good start.
"If the laws continue to get broken at least we have somewhere to start to strengthen them, that's the key, going forward," he said.
VFF Pig Group president Tim Kingma, central Victoria, said farmers "lived and breathed" biosecurity.
"I am a little bit fearful, in the short term, as to what happens if a farmer hasn't got all that information, and someone commits trespass," Mr Kingma said.
"I have gone out and got the signs for my farm, but I am in a position where I know about it.
"I would like to think AgVic and the government supports farmers to say 'this is where you can get the signs, this is what you need to do'."
He said the new system wasn't hard to implement - "but we do need to get out there and help those farmers, who aren't as advanced".
"That might not just be intensive farming, but I think that's the last little step we need to get right," he said.
For an offence to apply under the new laws, the biosecurity management plan must include:
- A clear title: including the words 'BIOSECURITY MANAGEMENT PLAN' and the address of the premises to which it applies.
- Contact information: the name and contact details of the nominated person(s), for example, the owner or livestock manager.
- Area description: a description, map or plan of the whole or specified part of the premises to which the BMP applies, that accurately describes the boundaries of the premises.
- Preparation details: additional details including the day that the BMP comes into operation and the name of the person who prepared the BMP.
For more information or to download templates visit: agriculture.vic.gov.au/bmp