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Feral deer outbreak in SA's Limestone Coast ignites verbal stoush between state MPs

A feral deer outbreak in South Australia's Limestone Coast region - a key Flow FM broadcast area - has seen two South Australian MPs lock horns on Flow's Country Viewpoint program this week.

Image credit: Nicola Centofanti official Facebook page

The Limestone Coast Landscape Board, founded in 2020, has been consulting landowners over the problems caused by feral deer on farming properties.

One of the key initiatives the Limestone Coast Landscape Board is drawing on to aid farmers who are being impacted by feral deer is the thermal shooting program.

The Minister for Regional Development in the Malinauskas Government, Clare Scriven, said Nicola Centofanti, the Shadow Minister for Regional South Australia, is undermining the program.

"The Landscape Board has been working very hard with both state and federal government funding to eradicate feral deer and a big part of that also is the thermal shooting program...that's something that unfortunately a couple of the Liberals including the Shadow Minister for Primary Industries has really been undermining," Scriven said.

"The opposition was lifting up a lot of fear and really undermining the program, whereas what we've heard from the Southeast from many, many farmers is how important it is to them that feral deer are eradicated. 

"What's been happening over several years is that a lot of farmers have been investing a lot of money to eradicate feral deer but just a handful of neighboring properties haven't been doing that and so that means that the farmers who are doing the right thing are constantly having to redo it, spend a lot of extra money."

Centofanti phoned into the program later on and bit back, stating that she supported deer eradication but not the manner in which the government is approaching the issue.

"I unequivocally support the Feral Deer Culling Program, I always have and always will and I've been on media channels time and time again showing my support behind feral animal control right across not only our state but the nation.

"I've always land and obviously the environment but because they do present a huge biosecurity risk, but, this is not what this current conversation is about, this current conversation is about landowners' right and choices and I did attend a community forum where over 300 people really expressed their dismay over the government's heavy-handed approach. 

"These communities are by no means against controlling deer numbers nor are they against the use of aerial culling as part of a range of tools if it's carried out safely and humanely. But what they are against is being forced to take part in the aerial culling program, being forced out

"It's my opinion that it should be the landowners choice as to which tools they use to manage the deer numbers on their property, again so long as they do manage those deer numbers because as Liberals we believe in individual choice and we will always seek to protect property rights."

Centofanti then went on the attack, inferring the current government was exercising too much power over individuals in dealing with the issue.

"I think it's important to point out that success and practical outcomes occur when communities, individuals and governments collaborate and work together to achieve outcomes," Centofanti said.

"It doesn't occur when governments use its big stick to wield power over individuals and communities and it certainly doesn't occur when people feel like their basic rights and freedoms are being taken away from them.

"I'm urging this current government to reassess their heavy-handed tactics and rather than taking a big stick approach, work with individual landowners to use a range of control measures to feral deer rather than using a blanket one-size-fits-all approach because if they don't, I think they will risk losing the community on this incredibly important program for the state."

In 2022, feral deer cost South Australian primary producers an estimated $36 million in direct productivity losses.


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