A Harston farming couple, who have been plagued by the dumping of dead animals on their property, have been passed around from one government department to another for six months.
Hold tight - we’re checking permissions before loading more content
Following the intervention of the media and State Member for Euroa Annabelle Cleeland, Agriculture Victoria has agreed to conduct an investigation.
Someone has been dumping fox carcases on the beef and grazing property for years, and the farmers have been pushed from one government agency to another since a complaint was lodged in May last year.
The lack of action, resembling an episode of the television satire shows Yes Minister or Utopia, is no laughing matter for Nerida Brown and her husband Alan who have been exasperated by the buck-passing.
The last batch of four stinking carcases was found on their property on Friday, February 2. The bodies have been scalped, indicating the person responsible will claim a fox bounty of $10 each through the Agriculture Victoria program. Tatura has a fox bounty collection point.
Attempts to get an investigation from the police, local government, the EPA, Agriculture Victoria, the Victorian Game Management Authority and the RSPCA had been unsuccessful.
“We first noticed this about 10 years ago, but it has escalated in recent years,” Mrs Brown said.
“Sometimes it’s a single body, sometimes up to five.
“It’s a real biosecurity risk. Foxes are known to carry parasites and diseases. We are left with the job of cleaning them up.”
Because the bodies turn up randomly and in different locations, the carcases can lie exposed for weeks.
Farm dogs are drawn by the scent of the foxes.
Finally, this week, Agriculture Victoria has apologised to Mrs Brown and promised to have someone investigate the complaint.
Mrs Brown has records of her contact with the departments and has been asked by Agriculture Victoria for the details so they can investigate why the issue was not followed up earlier.
“We’re not against the fox bounty system; we just want this problem to stop,” Mrs Brown said.
“The program records the names of people claiming the bounty, so it shouldn’t be hard to start an investigation.”
Mrs Brown has been contacting government departments since May last year and in desperation has turned to the media to highlight their plight.
Agriculture Victoria says they expect everyone participating in the important Fox Bounty Program to act responsibly when disposing of carcases.
“The dumping of fox carcases is a breach of the bounty terms and conditions,” the department said.
“Hunters should determine how carcases will be disposed of prior to their collection — whether that is the farm or collection site on which it was taken.
“We’ve contacted the landowners and are supporting them to work through a solution.”
In response to questions from Country News, Agriculture Victoria said no breaches of the terms and conditions of the bounty program have been detected at the Tatura collection centre. The department keeps records of participants.
State Member for Euroa Annabelle Cleeland raised questions about the fox bounty program in questions on notice in the Victorian Legislative Assembly on Thursday morning, and also spoke to Victorian Agriculture Minister Ros Spence.
Ms Cleeland said the bounty program was important for pest control, but there were questions around how the program was monitored and managed.
“This case (at Harston) raises some questions about the execution of the program and what occurs in the case of biosecurity and trespass issues,” she said.
“We need to get some straight answers about this case and what occurs with enforcement of the program conditions.
“At the end of the day we need to make sure this is a robust pest control program.”
An EPA spokesperson told Country News: “Where fox carcases that have been taken under the fox bounty program are discarded, contact AgVic to report them.”
The Agriculture Victoria fox bounty website has the following statement:
Enforcements: The Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) is the agency responsible for investigating offences under the Environment Protection Act 1970. EPA Victoria is responsible for enforcing relevant laws where rubbish dumping creates significant pollution or environmental impacts.
Reports of illegal rubbish dumping, including animal carcases, can be made to EPA Victoria on 1300 372 842 or visit EPA.
But Agriculture Victoria recommends anyone with a complaint contact them on 136 186.