The Wabbit (rabbit) Action Group Silvan operates in an area of high value, intensive horticultural production on the urban fringe of Melbourne. Rabbit numbers have increased significantly over the last two decades, causing economic damage to orchard trees, berry crops, nursery and cut flower plants.
Small acreage holdings and the many hobby farms means that traditional methods of rabbit control are no longer appropriate. Traps are banned, baiting (1080) is not safe and ferreting is no longer popular. Shooting is still useful if care is taken but is discouraged by many people. Many lifestyle landholders have some complacency about the damage rabbits cause, perceiving them as ‘cute’.
Mechanical warren destruction is much more difficult here because a majority of warrens are in dam banks, creek banks, under trees or on land that is not to be disturbed for environmental reasons.
Blackberry infestations are a major harbour for rabbits and it is very difficult to get landowners, to clear blackberries.
WAGS has run several information workshops since it was formed 18 months ago. We have distributed Pindone bait to interested landholders. However, with plenty of fresh green grass all year round, rabbits do not eat the bait.
WAGS participated in the recent Calicivirus K5 release. The uptake of the treated bait was very encouraging but only one obvious Calici carcass has been collected. Our next spotlight count will, hopefully, confirm this success of the K5 release.
WAGS’ next steps are to assist the spread of the K5 virus by storing K5-dead rabbits for re-release of the virus at an opportune time in the future.
A demonstration plot is being developed to revegetate a warren-pocked area that was also infested with blackberries.
With ongoing funding, WAGS will continue to encourage and assist local landowners to combat rabbits in an area-wide multifaceted approach.
In fact our continuing compliance program, as developed by and for us, is one of the important reasons for the success of our Ongoing Pest Plant and Animal Integrated Control Programs.
Initially the officer responsible (DEPI at that time) approached The Granite Creeks Project to participate in planning the rabbit and blackberry compliance programs to be run in our region. The compliance program was explained. The most important part to us was that landholders are supported in meeting their obligations. Landholders are referred to our landcare groups for funding support and advice in addition to that provided by the Field Officers doing the inspections.
Secondly, and of critical importance, individual landholders are not ‘targeted’. Each year we identify a new compliance area. Over the eight years or more of the program, the selected areas have ensured a whole-of-landscape coverage; shown on the map. Our community knows that sooner or later, individually and collectively, they will be involved in a compliance program.
Many new owners have bought land over the past twenty years, many of whom have limited understanding and knowledge of the impact rabbits and blackberries have on their property, its value and the environment. For us compliance programs have supported our efforts to educate new landholders and have reinforced prior learning for longer-term landholders.
Because of the success of our community’s past work in pest plant and animal control, nearly all site visits by Field Officers provide an opportunity for landholders to be recognised and congratulated for the work they have done. Yes, there have been a few, less than %0.5, who have had to deal with the actions that result from non-compliance, but the community at large see this as supporting their own good work.
Net result … a win-win for agency staff and our community: a job made easier where limited resources are utilised with maximum and effective impact.
Up until about 2011 there was a lot of doubt and controversy about who was responsible for pest plants and animals along roadsides. After a lot of consultation and hard work in establishing a determination, local councils were deemed to be responsible for all roadsides that were ‘council roads’. VicRoads would continue to maintain all roads and freeways for which they were responsible.
As a result of this decision the Victorian Government provided funding to shire councils to address roadside weed and pest management. Shires could engage contractors to undertake the work that would then be approved for payment.
Our shire’s initial funding was $150 000 over the first three years: this was extended to a fourth and fifth year – total funding was in the order of $250 000.
The rate base for our Shire is small. There are not many on-ground staff. Recognising this as an issue, that in the past weed control had led to sub-optimal results, our local landcare groups developed a model to assist the Shire in delivering the program.
Our proposition was that if the Shire met all the regulatory requirements of the funding, the landcare groups would inspect the roadsides to locate weeds and rabbits. Each group selected an approved contractor to undertake the work; a landcare representative supervised the work and approved final payment by the Shire to the contractor on the basis that work was completed to the required standard.
Shire officers, agency staff and the landcare group representatives have met annually to review and improve the program.
There has been a significant impact on the extent of roadside weeds. The involvement of the landcare groups meant that community education is more effective and our community owns the project. A win-win for all.
Tent deconstructed and sheathed, the last sip of my morning coffee savoured, boots on and backpack donned. We left Mt Erica campsite without a trace to embark on the beautiful two hour jaunt down the hill past mushroom rocks to where we’d left the car parked two days earlier. What a weekend. What a place. The Mt Baw Baw section of the southern portion of the Alpine Trail was spectacular, silver wattle and snow-gums hugging the track and framing our impressions of this exquisite landscape – which, I noted, had been remarkably well maintained by the people at Parks.
It was with surprise that I happened upon a sneaky shoot of blackberry emerging from the native undergrowth, the sole blackberry I had encountered over three days on the track. Given how stubborn and prolific the spread of blackberry can be, I’m grateful for the good work being done in the area to manage this weed and, in doing so, maintain the integrity of this beautiful native ecology.
I thought I would share my story about one of several rural blocks I have “cleaned up” in my life and specifically in the ongoing battle I have had with Blackberry, but i would also like to make mention of English broom, as it appears to me it is going to get just as bad as Blackberry.
The general location I am talking about is central and east Gippsland & north east Victoria.
I wish the government would reclassify blackberry from noxious to prohibited so that a greater effort was made to control this weed, but I also realise why its classified as it is.
I am very concerned about English broom getting established elsewhere other than the mitta catchment (ie Jordan/Thomson & Goulburn catchments) because it could be eradicated there, to date the govt land managers responsible for those locations are not making enough effort to achieve that.
Two “before and after” photos of part of a property (I cleared blackberry entirely) I use to own.