ADJOURNMENT DEBATE ON DROVING

My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Agriculture, and concerns the issue of droving on Victorian roads.

Recently, I met with drover John Wilson to discuss with him the unacceptable circumstances in which he had been placed by the state government. Mr Wilson was determined to save the lives of 360 cattle from drought-stricken New South Wales. John came to the Moyne Shire, where he received overwhelming support from the townspeople, local farmers and the council for reducing the out-of-control roadside vegetation that plagues our region’s roadsides.

Droving has been an iconic aspect of Victorian rural life since first settlement 185 years ago. Provision by early road planners accommodated droving through the famous 'long paddock’. Droving’s numerous benefits include reducing unmanageable roadside vegetation, especially phalaris; ensuring better visibility for motorists; reducing fire risk; offering a lifeline for valuable breeding stock from drought-stricken areas; reducing wildlife habitat which end up as roadkill; and saving ratepayers money.

Mr Wilson obtained a valid permit from the Moyne Shire Council, which detailed applicable roads for droving. However, on Good Friday the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) issued John with a new list of 31 out of bounds local roads, leaving him with nowhere to go. VicRoads then proposed further roadblocks by insisting cattle be transported across state roads to reach local roads in a truck rather than allowing John to move the cattle mere metres on foot. They later issued a permit, but it was way too late.

Mr Wilson has been forced to pack up and leave Victoria, going back to drought-affected New South Wales and leaving the cattle owner with a $50 000 bill for transport and extra fodder. His brief visit to Victoria at the encouragement of the Moyne Shire has cost him dearly, and DELWP and VicRoads are directly responsible.

I urge the minister and ask her to stand up for agriculture and farmers by ensuring her colleagues prevent their departments impeding droving and roadside grazing while supporting local municipalities in what should be a win-win outcome for all stakeholders. She could also show some compassion for New South Wales farmers, who one day might have to help out Victorian drought-affected farmers.

28 May 2019