Natural Resources Management Committee: Management of Overabundant and Pest Species

Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (11:50): I rise to speak to this motion regarding the third report of the Natural Resources Committee, entitled Inquiry into Management of Overabundant and Pest Species. Before proceeding any further, I want to go through some of the lead recommendations:

1. The Minister for Environment and Water should be able to declare a species as 'overabundant', for the purposes of managing its population impacts.

2. The Minister for Environment and Water should consider immediate declarations in relation to western grey kangaroos, little corellas, long-nosed fur seals, and koalas where populations are having a deleterious impact on an identified landscape.

3. The South Australian Government should apply a risk-based and impact-based approach to both native and invasive impact-causing species alike, and to both Crown land and privately-held land.

Those are just the first few recommendations from this committee. I commend the committee for their great work into overabundant and pest species. I think we really need to take some action now. I have been presenting about long-nosed fur seals—or as they are known and were known before their name was attempted to be changed by a former minister in another place, New Zealand fur seals—and the impact they are having not just on fishing stocks but also on native birdlife whether it be musk ducks, terns, pelicans and the like.

I have been onto the issue of New Zealand fur seals for about 10 years now, and I have moved two motions in this place. I have also lodged a petition with almost 1,600 signatures—1,600, so it would be one of the largest petitions in this place—which means we really need to take action in regard to New Zealand fur seals.

The problem we have is that in the past, in the former government, starting from the minister, there was a Sergeant Schultz 'I see nothing; I hear nothing' approach taken in relation to New Zealand fur seals, but when you talk to the people in my electorate and also in the electorates of MacKillop and Finniss, these people who are invested in the sea and the fishermen invested in inland waters are being heavily impacted. It is not just the inland waters; it is the offshore waters as well.

Not only that, it is the Indigenous people, the Aboriginal people. I note that Darrell Sumner got into a lot of trouble for clubbing seals and running over them. I do not condone that, but Darrell was just so frustrated and so outraged as a local Indigenous person—not only that, as a Vietnam veteran—that he decided to take matters into his own hands. I mention Darrell because he also had his house raided. He said to me once, 'I would have let them in if I had known they were coming,' but he was not home.

The issue we had because of the sensitivities of the minister, and this was infused right down through the department of environment, water and natural resources at the time, was, 'We just need to clamp down on this. There is nothing to see here. We are not going to have anyone say that we need to take active management of New Zealand fur seals.' Obviously, this generated some publicity a few years ago when I raised this subject in this place.

When I presented to the committee, I reported the feedback I had from both Penny Debelle and Michael Owen, one reporting for The Advertiser and one for The Australian. They were raided. They were raided by compliance officers to find out what information they had on New Zealand fur seals. You would have thought we were being invaded by a communist country. This was totally over the top and just outrageous. Instead of looking at the reality of the situation and noting the problem, we heard, 'No, we don't want to know about it.'

I have talked to staff in natural resources. To be fully transparent, I will say that my wife, Sally, is an environmental scientist. She is not working in that field at the minute but used to work in natural resources. You talk to some of these people in leadership roles and they say, 'Don't worry about it. We will pay out those Coorong and lakes licences and just be done with it.' Really? That is the attitude. It is just out of control and we need to take real action.

I note that the former chief executive to the former minister Sandy Pitcher set up a working group to look at seals. It involved local people and councils. I got a phone call direct from Sandy, who said, 'No, you are not to be involved.' That was just fodder for me. Straight up, that was the next press release. I shot that in and had an excellent run. Again, it was the Sergeant Schultz approach: nothing to see here.

Mr Duluk: Nothing to know.

Mr PEDERICK: Yes, nothing to know, but then it got even better. I got an excellent leak that they were going to set up a viewing platform at Goolwa, which I used to look after because it was in my electorate of Hammond at the time. It has now been transferred to the member for Finniss's electorate. This was more fodder to me. Fancy setting up a viewing platform to view these seals causing their havoc on native birdlife and local fish populations. It was just outrageous. What it does show is that you have thought police who think they know better than everyone. They put the fishermen through a program of trialling crackers, which took far too long. It took about 18 months and it worked out that it cost about one-quarter of a million dollars a year if they instituted these crackers at $3.50 each.

The Hon. D.C. van Holst Pellekaan: AC/DC music.

Mr PEDERICK: Yes, that's it. They used AC/DC music, which is excellent music by the way, to scare off the seals. Over time, it might have attracted the seals. Be that as it may, it got down to the fact that I think only one licence holder was going to use these crackers because it just got too hard. There was too much training and it was just ridiculous.

What we need to have is real action, and we can do it. We can get the optics right. What I am talking about is a culling process as part of this procedure. I stress again that, as part of this management of overabundant species—yes, I am concentrating on seals—I know that in America they round them up and take them away to be euthanased. As I reported to the committee under questioning, it might be 30 or it might be 300. When you have stocks that 10 years ago were 100,000 and are increasing at 5½ per cent, this is not a species in decline. This is a species that is overabundant and needs management—

Mr McBride: Out of control.

Mr PEDERICK: —and, as the member for MacKillop indicates, is out of control. But we also need to take action against corellas so that we do not have people taking matters into their own hands, as we have recently seen at One Tree Hill. I note that the Coorong District Council has sent 25,000 corellas to a better place, and more councils should get on board. I think the government should take over this program so that we have a coordinated approach to little corellas across the state.

In the main, we just need to be proactive. We need to have courage and we need to be realistic. As I said to the committee, the department shoots deer. They shoot Bambi from helicopters, yet they are too timid to take an active approach to New Zealand fur seals. I seek leave to continue my remarks.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.