By Jeremy Sollars
The Southern Downs Regional Council says it will take an “understanding and empathetic approach” to compliance with the Invasive Pest Control Scheme for the current financial year.
Councillors at a special meeting held last Friday 15 May voted to place a ‘moratorium’ or freeze on the scheme in the new 2020-2021 financial year, as part of COVID-19 relief measures.
The move will be welcomed by many in the region’s rural sector, with the controversial Invasive Pest Control Scheme (IPCS) adopted by the previous Dobie administration and attracting widespread opposition particularly from primary producers.
The scheme has involved the issuing of financial penalties for non-compliance in the form of ‘supplementary rates notices’, with 440 issued in October last year for the 2019-2020 financial year.
Under the scheme landowners must complete an annual ‘control works form’ outlining measures they are taking to control pest weeds and animals on their properties.
While the moratorium voted through by the new council last week will apply in the 2020-2021 financial year a council spokeswoman said any landowners who have received a ‘supplementary rates notice’ for 2019-2020 “are encouraged to contact Council’s Pest Management team” to discuss the potential grounds for revocation of their notice.
“Council’s 15 May 2020 Special Meeting resolution pertained to the IPCS in 2020/21 only,” the spokeswoman said.
“However, Council is acutely aware of the impacts landholders are experiencing from the severe and ongoing drought, compounded by the impacts of COVID-19, and officers are continuing to take an understanding and empathetic approach to administering the 2019/20 IPCS.
“Landholders who are experiencing difficulties in fulfilling their pest management obligations are encouraged to contact Council’s Pest Management team.”
Of the 440 landholders who received a ‘supplementary rates notice’ last October 169 were listed at that time as “repeat offenders”.
Council reports from that time stated those who received the supplementary rates notices “failed to submit a CWF (Control Works Form) or failed to re-submit a CWF after contact with pest management officers”.
The IPCS was criticised for being applied during severe ongoing drought and many landowners questioned the ability of a small number of allocated council staff to physically inspect allegedly non-compliant properties.
Other councils offer incentive-based programs for rural weed control including rates rebates.