Rabbit control

Mr DULUK (Waite) (15:27): My question is to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development. Can the minister update the house on how the state government is addressing the impacts of rabbits on agricultural land?

The Hon. T.J. WHETSTONE (Chaffey—Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development) (15:28): Yes, I certainly can. I thank the member for Waite. I know that he has rabbit incursions in his electorate in the foothills of South Australia. What I can say is that recently in Mount Barker, I was very happy to announce a new Rabbit Control Coordinator in South Australia. His name is Josh Rosser.

Members interjecting:

The SPEAKER: Order!

The Hon. T.J. WHETSTONE: No, it's not Peter the Rabbit: it's Josh. The position has been funded in a partnership thanks to $260,000 from the federal Liberal government through the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper. We know that the then minister Joyce had developed a white paper about the invasive species across the nation, none more so than the rabbit. We know that we are now working with landowners to wipe out areas of the destructive environmental pest and the amount of damage that it is doing, not only to agriculture and horticulture but also to our environmental assets.

I am sure the Minister for Environment is deeply concerned about the damage it's doing to his parks and his assets—some $30 million of damage across the state on an annual basis. What we are going to see is that the rabbit coordinator is now going to move around the state and coordinate with landowners, farmers, agriculturalists, horticulturalists and environmentalists to coordinate an approach to this destructive pest. We are seeing now that we are using some of the different methods, such as ripping, fumigation and, of course, the calicivirus that has been in train for a number of years.

The rabbit coordinator will work with landowners to make sure that we have a very much coordinated approach. He is travelling the state, and there have been significant reports on newly planted horticulture—grape vines, trees and nurseries. That puts the cycle of those trees and vines back four to five years in some cases. We know that some of the rootstocks, once they are chewed, never recover and can never be used out in open field. We know that the destruction on fence lines, the destruction they are incurring, particularly with agricultural crops, is having a significant impact on our economy.

Again, I would say that the landowners are being called upon to make sure that they let the coordinator know when there are significant sightings or impacts of rabbits so that we can actually implement a collaboration, an approach, that will better destroy this invasive pest. I am advised that the coordinator is about to release approximately 300 vials of the RHDV1 K5 calicivirus strain. That is the latest strain that is about to be released into our natural environment to combat the invasive species.

We know that, once upon a time, myxomatosis was a viral strain that was released, and it had a significant impact on rabbits, but today the calicivirus continues to evolve. With the release of those 300 vials, we hope to see the destruction of such an invasive pest. Josh Rosser is travelling the state, and I appeal to every landowner and every environmentalist: if you have rabbit pressure, contact him through PIRSA so that we can attack the rabbit instead of the rabbit attacking us.