Feral animal numbers spike leading to calls for category D firearm reform

NSW Agriculture Minister Dugald Saunders said the state's recent pest program covered about 50 million hectares of land during the past year. Photo: Billy Jupp

NSW Agriculture Minister Dugald Saunders said the state's recent pest program covered about 50 million hectares of land during the past year. Photo: Billy Jupp

THE state's wet and mild summer conditions may have been of benefit to most producers, however it has caused a dramatic spike in the number of feral animals.

Cooler conditions have provided the ideal breeding ground for pest animals such as pigs and dogs.

Nationally, wild pig numbers are estimated to have soared to 23 million, costing the agriculture sector an estimated $100 million, while feral dogs are costing land management agencies an estimated $50 million.

The spike in pest numbers prompted NSW Farmers president James Jackson to call on the state and federal governments for more support.

"Farmers are regularly trapping more than 60 pigs in a single week, it's just a huge problem at the moment," Mr Jackson said.

"As we see continued high prices and demand for livestock those losses will continue to sting the back pocket."

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The calls come after the state government concluded its largest ever pest control program, which is estimated to have saved the sector $11 million in losses caused by pest damage.

NSW Agriculture Minister Dugald Saunders said the program covered about 50 million hectares of land during the past year.

"We partnered with almost 15,000 landholders across the state to coordinate this program which makes it one of, if not the largest, most collaborative pest management programs in the country," Mr Saunders said.

"Autumn is generally when we see pest animals more active in the landscape, which is why we want to carry out control activities on the largest area possible.

"Our farmers have been hit with so many challenges over the last few years - drought, fires, a mouse plague, a global pandemic and of course floods - so the last thing they need is further damage to their businesses by these pest animals."

The rise in pest numbers has renewed calls from contract shooters for the state government to urgently address its category D firearm regulations, which were introduced in 2020 and that greatly restrict licence holders from fit-for-purpose firearms in the fight against pest animals.

Acting NSW Premier and NSW Police Minister Paul Toole said the regulations were still being reviewed.

"I continue to work closely with the NSW Police and key stakeholders to investigate options to ensure that landholders, and licensed pest controllers, have the weapons necessary to control vertebrate pest animals like feral pigs," Mr Toole told The Land.

"As part of that, I am looking at ways to create a permanent and practical solution for the estimated 500 category D licence holders who have been affected by the 2020 NCAT ruling."

This story Spike in pest numbers sparks concern, calls for category D reform first appeared on Daily Liberal.