Wednesday, May 29, 2013

hello cockie, your chew can continue

report from the roundtable – 28 may

I was bitterly disappointed to not receive majority support for a local law to prevent the backyard feeding of sulphur crested cockatoos in some parts of Yarra Ranges. I moved a motion, which was in turn seconded by Cr Cliff, but all other councillors did not support the local law.

Councillors in favour - council meeting 28 May:
Crs Dunn and Cliff

Councillors Against
Crs McAllister, Witlox, Callanan, Child and Cox

Councillors Absent
Crs Avery and McCarthy

It was at complete odds to voting patterns to support the local law in the past. At the council meeting of 26 Feb, 2013 the majority of councillors supported the public exhibition of the  local law, given the political will clearly wasn’t there, I wonder why they would seek to go through the motions, wasting valuable officer and community time in a public exhibition process and setting up false expectations for the community.

Councillors in favour of exhibiting the local law 26 Feb:
Crs Dunn, Cliff, Cox, McAllister, Callanan, McCarthy and Child

Councillors against:
Cr Witlox

Councillors absent:
Cr Terry Avery

Further to that councillors discussed the direction to proceed with the local law at an assembly (private meeting) of councillors on 5th February 2013 where the consensus view of all councillors (note Cr Witlox was absent) was to proceed to a formal consultation process. If the will and commitment wasn’t there why proceed?

Community members I have spoken to about this are very disappointed, feeling let down, abandoned and frustrated by the council decision.

I put forward a comprehensive case as to why the local law was important for those extreme cases of backyard feeding and neighbouring property damage. I talked about the stress, both emotional and financial, the impact of cockatoo feeding has. I highlighted the link between proximity of feeding and chewing behaviour (at a community meeting in July 2009 the DSE categorically stated that damage to buildings was caused due to the feeding of the birds. It was also said that the feeding would be in and around the vicinity of the damage in a radius of approximately 100 to 200 metres).

I talked about satisfying the rules of evidence, that the local law wasn’t about ‘cockie police’ patrolling backyards and was a legal framework to use in the most extreme of cases.  I mentioned the health impacts both to birds and humans. It seems that my arguments fell on deaf ears.

In speaking against the motion Cr Cox said he would not support the local law as it did not include state government property, he said it was pointless until we had the cooperation of state government. Cr Cox is well aware that local government does not have jurisdiction over crown land and in my view if we waited for state government we’d be waiting forever. Cr Cox has supported the development of the local law up till last night’s meeting, as recently as Feb 27, 2013 he was talking up the local law to Red Symons and listeners on ABC774.

Cr Witlox spoke of his concern that innocent backyard feeding of birds would be the target of vexatious complaints and the local law may cause new problems. At least Cr Witlox has been consistent with his lack of support for the local law.

Cr McAllister spoke to two experts about the issue, Ian Temby, ex DSE Senior Policy Officer - Wildlife Damage Control Flora & Fauna Program, who supported a legislative framework as the next best step (Ian’s advice was invaluable in the development of education material back in 2009/10). She also spoke to Healesville Sanctuary who advised that a “community education program not a local law was the way to go”. Cr McAllister’s view was that an “education campaign with positive reinforcement” was a more effective approach even though she “hears the frustration of the community”.

Both Crs Child and Callanan did not speak to the motion but voted against it.

To those community members who have travelled a long road in dealing with this issue, waiting patiently for an efficient legal framework in which to tackle the issue of cockatoo damage from backyard feeders, who have seen concerted education campaigns on the issue fail in these extreme cases, I feel your frustration, the lack of understanding of what you deal with on a daily basis seems to be lost on my colleagues and I apologise for not making a successful case in your favour.

For those who are interested there has been a long history on this issue and it's highlighted on numerous other blog entries including:
- Public meeting at Burrinja June 2008 – link
- Urgent meeting convened with government and agencies 9 June 2009 – link
- Continuing cockie damage June 2009 – link
- More damage and advocacy June 2009 – link
- Community meeting re cockie damage in Kallista and Menzies Creek July 2009 – link
- Cockies chew power lines 14 July 2009 – link
- Community rallies against cockatoo feeding August 2009 – link
- Community meeting in Kallista re cockie damage August 2009 – link
- Council to consider options for legal framework September 2009 - link
- Council supports legal framework to deal with backyard feeding 8 September 2009link supported unanimously by councillors (Crs Cliff and McRae absent)
- Concerted education campaign commences January 2010 – link
- Replacement of damaged infrastructure January 2010 – link
- Education campaign starts April 2010 – link
- Council resolves to develop local law, advocacy and education campaign 13 April, 2010link supported 7 votes for, 1 against (Cr Cliff absent)
- Representations to modify license conditions for Grants Picnic Ground June 2010 – link
- Advocacy to state government 26 October 2010 – link
- Council supports public exhibition of local law 26 February 2013 - link supported 7 votes for, 1 against (Cr Avery absent)

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At 1:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a sad case...
farming in the Kallista/emerald area is now not viable because of these birds...
Suggestion for those next door to anyone anti-social enough to feed these damn birds, contact the council and seek prosecution under the Nuisance provisions of the Health Act, if I am correct, that activity presents a health risk, mainly the increased risk of psittacosis (I know of 2 cases of this within a 1km radius of me, one needing intensive care!), as well as being stressful from both damage and noise. you apparently only need to be afraid of the cockies too, it is for bees.... If it effects your well-being, then it may apply.
Insist that Council officers enforce it under the Nuisance provisions...
As a bee-keeper, I am aware that this is a tool that Councils can enforce control measures against bees if they are a nuisance, no reason that cockatoos are not the same. However, councils will be reluctant to use the Health act.... but if a few insist on it, then maybe Council may reconsider this.
Anyone who does get psittacosis, especially if they have complained to council, I wonder if there will be legal grounds to sue the council for lack of action, knowing that there is an increased risk to public safety.
(Parks vic are you reading this!)
On a side note, if I was to deliberately feed food to rats and mice and let them breed out of control and become a plague in the area, I'd have the health act used instantly against me (and probably some local laws) and rightly so. Then why is it not applying to Cockatoos?
Me, I am now buying a new shotgun, Cockatoos if damaging crops are non-protected wildlife, you can shoot them legally, if your property is safe to shoot on. (see the DSE web pages on cockatoos)


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