Regional control plan scrutinised

8th August 2017 8:25 AM
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HUNDREDS of Southern Downs landholders are expected to pack out Freestone Hall for a meeting to discuss a new council-enforced invasive pest scheme.

Southern Downs Regional Council approved the pest control scheme for the region which began last month, as invasive pests pose significant financial impacts on landowners.

As part of the new scheme council has introduced an Invasive Pests Control Scheme levy applied to all relevant land, with a minimum fee of $500.

Rural landholder and former Southern Downs deputy mayor Ross Bartley said the council was now facing backlash for the strict scheme.

"I am helping to facilitate the meeting and it will be chaired by (former mayor) Ron Bellingham,” Mr Bartley said.

"The strategy by council has some merits but our main concern is there has been no consultation with producers and the first step to good governance is consultation.

"Producers are required to send back forms in a particular time period and particularly for older producers that haven't grown up with modern technology that can be quite onerous.”

Mr Bartley said there was also concern that some property owners would pay far beyond the minimum fee of $500 while others would not be required to control invasive pests due to how their property is classed.

The variable levy is calculated according to the unimproved value of the land set by the State Government.

For example, a 7.5hectare property valued at $175,000 would pay $525 while a 100ha property valued at $250,000 would pay $1250.

Landowners who meet their invasive pest control responsibilities will receive a 100% concession of the levy.

Those who do not meet their invasive pest control responsibilities will be charged the levy via the issue of a supplementary rates notice.

All rateable land in these differential general rating categories fall under the scheme: Residential 4; Commercial and Industrial - Town & Rural; Agriculture and Farming 1, 2 & 3; Horticulture 1, 2 & 3; Extractive; Private Forestry; Special Uses and Other.

"I have heard some would be charged over $3000 if they did not meet the requirements within three years,” Mr Bartley said.

"I also know of one property with a reasonable area of invasive boxthorn that isn't required to fill out the forms because it doesn't fall under one of the required categories.

"The scheme meets the Biosecurity Act obligations but it's not enforced by the State Government; we're the only council to have this type of scheme.

"This meeting is essentially to send a strong message of discontent about the current implementation of the scheme.”

Control works forms issued with rates notices last month are to be returned by August 18.

Mr Bellingham said he was looking forward to healthy discussion when the meeting is held this Thursday at Freestone Hall.

"I see myself as an independent chair and hope this will be an opportunity for people to air their concerns,” he said.

"There needed to be a change with how the council managed pests as what was done over 30 years was maybe not working as well as was hoped, but I think people have been a bit shocked to see this new levy introduced.

"It's a public meeting so I hope councillors would attend and they would be given the opportunity to respond.”

The public meeting will begin at 11am on Thursday.

Find the control scheme brochure at sdrc.qld.gov.au.