A delegation from Tilba Tilba and South Narooma Landcare took their fireweed message directly to Canberra this week meeting with Member for Eden-Monaro Dr Mike Kelly.
The delegation led by group president Robert Dunn included fellow landowners and fireweed activists Harry Bate and Merrick Willcocks.
“The visit to Canberra went as well as we could have expected, and we found the time spent with local member Mike Kelly and the Hon. Luke Hartsuyker, Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture well worthwhile,” Mr Dunn said.
“Mike Kelly stressed his background in fighting the fireweed scourge, both in the Bega valley and in our Landcare area indicating his family connections in the dairy industry and his previous role as Assistant to the former Minister for Agriculture, Joe Ludwig and as currently in his role as assistant to the current shadow minister.
“He stated that he fully supported the role of local Landcare groups such as ours in co-ordinating the Federal Government's control and eradication measures.
“Although he was personally sceptical as to the Green Army initiative that was brought in by the former Howard and Abbott governments he was appreciative of the effort we were putting in with the assistance of Eurobodalla Council and fully understood the need for strong containment measures pending the bio-scientific measures that he had personally overseen in his previous term as Member for Eden-Monaro.
“This was concerning the original moth proposed to be introduced as well is the current proposal to introduce the flea beetle considered to be a safer proposal as far as native vegetation was concerned, although it was still some four years away and being tested in South Africa.
“We made the point to Mike that the Green Army operating through Eurobodalla Council, although not an answer in itself to the effort that is needed by private owners and individuals to carry out their own control effort through picking and stock grazing mowing and poisoning in extreme cases-nevertheless had the capacity as we had demonstrated to inject support on the ground where it was needed, particularly if landowners were elderly or hard-working dairy farmers who did not have the manpower or the working hours to put in the sort of dedication to handpicking that was required.
“In the later meeting with Minister Hartsuyker we emphasised the need to increase the green army support through the Eurobodalla Council, from just the one group of 10 volunteers that were involved this year, too small in number as effective and dedicated as they were as individuals, to the need to have a tenfold increase if we were to have a real effect from this initiative.
“It was also critical that this involvement took place earlier in the fireweed season, that is from the autumn/winter leading into the spring rather than in the spring into late spring, as occurred this year.
“Minister Hartsuyker said that the timing of our visit was opportune in that regard, as there was then currently a review of the whole Green Army effort taking place and he understood the urgency from our perspective in wishing to expand the physical and interim control measures pending a bio-scientific fix of the problem, which was still years away.
“The Minister's background as one of the senior National party members, guarantees that our concerns will be made known at the highest level of the Federal Government, particularly as to the absolute urgency of protecting Australia's reputation in the export of uncontaminated food, including our exports to China.”
A full report both of the visit and the year’s effort will be made at our Landcare group’s annual general meeting to be held next Thursday evening, December 8, at the Small Hall, Central Tilba. All members of the public are welcome to be in attendance.