‘We’ve never had to do this before’; Invasive Species Council strips regional Queensland council of national award and issues three new awards

Media Release |

Three new national Froggatt Award winners were announced today, while a 2019 award to Southern Downs Regional Council was revoked.

The winners of the Froggatt Awards 2021 are the Gamba Grass Roots community group for their on-going campaign against one of Australia’s most alarming invasive weeds, Lord Howe Island Board’s Rodent Eradication Program for nearing completion of the world’s largest ever rodent eradication from an inhabited island and the West Riverina Pest Project for removing 40,000 feral pigs from the region using a suite of novel pest control technology. 

Southern Downs Regional Council initially received a Froggatt Award in 2019 for its innovative pest control program targeted at reducing the impacts of major pests across 415,000 hectares of southern Queensland by 2030. 

The move marks the first time in the 19 year history of the awards the Invasive Species Council has stripped a Froggatt from a past winner.

The annual awards, named in honour of the Australian entomologist who was a lone voice lobbying against the deliberate release of cane toads in the 1930s, recognise outstanding achievements in Australia’s fight against environmental weeds, diseases and pest animals. 

The Southern Downs Regional Council’s Invasive Pest Control Scheme was implemented in 2017 to ensure all landholders were working with Council on active control measures to reduce the impact of invasive pests on the region’s agricultural industry and environment. 

Under the Invasive Pest Control Scheme implemented in 2017, officers from the Southern Downs Regional Council worked closely with local landholders to help them tackle the region’s worst weeds and feral animals including African boxthorn, blackberry, rabbits, wild dogs and velvety tree pear.

When it received its national Froggatt Award in 2019, land with declared pests in the Southern Downs had already decreased by a massive 23,815 hectares and the program was forecast to save the region $96 million over 30 years.

Under the scheme, a levy was charged to landholders who didn’t meet their invasive pest control obligations to offset the collective costs incurred by all landholders from those uncontrolled pests. 

The three-year old program was scrapped following a change in leadership at the 2020 Southern Downs local elections in favour of a dialled-back plan leaving pest control in the hands of landholders.

‘The new scheme reverts back to the old idea of hoping people control pests on their lands without financial incentives, an approach used across most of Australia and has proved ineffective time and time again,’ said Mr Cox.

‘There was strong evidence the scheme was working and a survey found it was popular amongst most landholders. The abandonment of the scheme left us with no choice. We had to retract the Southern Downs Regional Council’s Froggatt Award. 

‘The awards began in 2003 and we’ve never had to do this before. Hopefully we will never have to do it again.’

Also receiving official commendations are Budgewoi Beach Dunecare for its carefully planned weed eradication and sand dune restoration, Matt Korcz for determined efforts to eradicate feral pigs from Kangaroo Island, Maria Katsikas for tireless efforts as a volunteer weeder in the Nillumbik region and Michael Squires for on-going efforts to control European wasps in the Braidwood area. 

‘These awards celebrate the too often unrecognised efforts of Australians to protect their native species and ecosystems from the impacts of invasive species,’ said Mr Cox.

View All Froggatt Awards 2021 >>

Help protect NSW!

Our expert team has written a list of policy asks detailing exactly what the next NSW government needs to do to stamp out some of the worst invasive species impacts across the state. But they will only become a reality if every key political candidate at the 2023 NSW state election hears about it from you!

Dear National Deer Management Coordinator,

Please accept this as a submission to the National Feral Deer Action Plan.

[Your personalised message will appear here] 

I am very concerned about the spread of deer and am pleased that a national plan has finally been developed. Without urgent action, funding and commitment from all levels of government it is clear that feral deer will continue to spread and damage our environment.

The feral deer population in Australia is growing rapidly and spreading across the country, damaging our natural environment, causing havoc for farmers and foresters and threatening public safety. Unlike much of the world where deer are native, our plants and wildlife haven’t evolved to deal with these heavy hard hooved animals with a voracious appetite.
With no natural predators and an ability to adapt to almost all environments, they could occupy almost all of Australia unless stopped. Despite this, state and territory governments have been slow to respond and in Victoria and Tasmania they are still protected by law for the enjoyment of hunters.

This plan should be adopted by all governments but must also be underpinned by dedicated funding and clear responsibilities. A plan without funding or accountability is a plan that will fail and Australia cannot afford for this to fail.

In order to prevent the spread of feral deer and reduce their impact on our native wildlife, ecosystems and agriculture, I ask that the following recommendations be adopted for the final National Feral Deer Action Plan:

1. All federal, state and territory governments should adopt the National Feral Deer Action Plan and declare feral deer to be a priority pest animal species.

2. All federal, state and territory governments should commit to:

  • Contain deer to the existing large population areas.
  • Reduce and eradicate smaller and isolated populations.
  • Protect important environmental assets such as world and national heritage areas.
  • Develop and fund regional plans and strategies to manage deer populations which involve land managers across all tenures.

3. In order to drive action and the success of this plan, there should be dedicated Commonwealth funding and support for:

  • A permanent national feral deer coordinator position.
  • A permanent federal feral deer action committee with representatives from the commonwealth and state and territory governments and the environmental and agricultural sectors.
  • An ongoing public education campaign on feral deer.
  • A network of regional feral deer coordinators to drive local action across tenures.

4. The expected outcomes for the plan need to be more ambitious, with clear interim targets including:

  • Within one year, all States and Territories should have in place arrangements to implement the National Feral Deer Action Plan, including allocating dedicated funding for implementation.
  • Within one year, feral deer management plans should be developed for key environmental assets of national significance, including the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, the Greater Blue Mountains, the Australian Alps, the Gondwana Rainforests and the Wet Tropics of Queensland.
  • Within five years coordinated landscape scale management should be in place where land owners, land managers, government and community are demonstrably working together.

5. A national feral deer containment map with three zones should be adopted. It should be more ambitious than the zone map in the current draft plan and there should be greater clarity in the naming of the zones. Improvements that should be adopted include:

  • Renaming the zones to better reflect the management intention to ‘Containment Zone 1’ (the current large population zone), ‘Containment Buffer Zone 2’ (the current buffer zone) and ‘Eradication and prevention Zone 3’ (the current small isolated population zone).
  • The NSW northern rivers area should be in the eradication and prevention zone as there are few feral deer currently in this region and eradicating isolated populations and preventing spread into this area is still possible.
  • The whole of South Australia should be in the eradication and prevention zone as eradication is the goal of the SA Government.
  • The Tasmanian region in the containment zone should be smaller to reflect greater ambition and potential for eradication of deer populations.
  • In eastern Victoria areas such as Wilson’s Promontory, Westernport islands and the Mornington Peninsula should be in the eradication and prevention zone.

6. There should be consistent laws and regulations across all states and territories that:

  • Recognise feral deer as a pest animal and treat them as such.
  • Establish a clear responsibility for all landholders and managers to be involved in feral deer control programs.
  • Set clear penalties to stop the wilful or negligent release of feral deer.
  • Prevent new deer farms in areas where no feral deer are present and phase out all deer farms in the eradication and prevention zone.
  • Enable enforcement of compliance, including on government land.

I support the follow principles being adopted in the final National Feral Deer Action Plan:

  • Feral deer are a pest and should be treated as such on all tenures, except on approved deer farms.
  • Federal, state and territory governments have a responsibility to fund the outcomes under this plan.
  • All land managers in areas where feral deer are present have a responsibility to be involved in feral deer control programs.
  • The focus of management efforts should be on eradication of isolated, satellite populations, protection of key environmental assets currently impacted and stopping the spread to new regions.
  • Feral deer control should be undertaken humanely, safely and professionally according to agreed protocols and all tools which meet this criteria should be adopted, including aerial control.
  • Funding for coordination, regional planning and community engagement is necessary for effective feral deer management.
  • Ongoing management and follow up control efforts are required to achieve long lasting results.
  • Rules and regulations should be consistent across jurisdictions and land tenures.
  • Recreational hunting is not an effective strategy for feral deer control and should not be relied upon.
[Your name]
[Your email address]
[Your suburb], [Your state]