Thursday, February 25, 2010

electronic bird scarers – more work to be done

report from the roundtable – 23 feb

At this weeks council meeting councillors had to consider the creation of a new local law to control the use of Electronic Bird Deterrent devices.

The devices emit a noise of distressed and dying birds and are used by some fruit growers to deter birds from eating their crops.

Concerns about the new law have been raised by farmers, environmentalists, tourism operators all raising different points of contention about the law.

I held concerns about the effect of the devices on wildlife particularly Helmeted Honeyeaters, Powerful Owls and other endangered species in the shire. After hearing submissions I moved a motion to defer council’s decision to make the new local law.

That Council defer the decision to make an Electronic Bird Deterrent Local Law 2009 until Council has considered the Green Wedge Management Plan recommendations and explore the opportunity for exclusion zones for Endangered fauna listed under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999 and the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act.

In supporting the deferral I spoke about the complexity of the new law, which was created because of the impact on people, however we are yet to be certain about the impact on wildlife. I think we have a responsibility to protect our endangered species and needed to do some work on identifying exclusion zones for the devices to be included within the local law.

We are very fortunate in Yarra Ranges to have Powerful Owls and Helmeted Honeyeaters and to ensure their ongoing best interests we need to use the precautionary principle when considering the impacts of these devices on these and other birds.

It is an issue where no one will be happy, because the local law doesn’t fulfil anybody’s needs, there is much more work to be done. One submitter reported to council that the VFF have suggested council give more time to the consideration of the local law as the EPA are currently drafting new guidelines for farming zones. This may have a direct impact on the operation of the local law which relies heavily on the EPA’s N3/89 Interim guidelines for the control of noise from industry in country Victoria which was released in 2000.

The consideration of Electronic Bird Deterrent devices also raises an advocacy role for council for assistance to farmers trying to protect their crops. Netting is a much more successful way to protect crops, with very little crop loss and the added benefits of quietness, however it is very expensive for farmers.

We are a unique shire, rich in environmental assets, with stunning vistas, high quality produce from a range of growers and farmers and a large and growing tourism industry. Balancing these is a complicated matter. Given the complexity of all the issues it was prudent to defer the making of the local law, councillors agreed and voted unanimously for a deferral.

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