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11 March, 2022

Southern Downs Regional Council stripped of Award

Southern Downs Regional Council initially received a Froggatt Award in 2019 for its innovative pest control program targeted at reducing the impacts of major pests across 415,000 hectares of southern Queensland by 2030.

Under the Invasive Pest Control Scheme implemented in 2017, officers from the Southern Downs Regional Council worked closely with local landholders to help them tackle the region’s worst weeds and feral animals including African boxthorn, blackberry, rabbits, wild dogs and velvety tree pear.

The move marks the first time in the 19 year history of the awards the Invasive Species Council has stripped a Froggatt from a past winner.

The annual awards, named in honour of the Australian entomologist who was a lone voice lobbying against the deliberate release of cane toads in the 1930s, recognise outstanding achievements in Australia’s fight against environmental weeds, diseases and pest animals. 

The Southern Downs Regional Council’s Invasive Pest Control Scheme was implemented in 2017 to ensure all landholders were working with Council on active control measures to reduce the impact of invasive pests on the region’s agricultural industry and environment. 

When it received its national Froggatt Award in 2019, land with declared pests in the Southern Downs had already decreased by a massive 23,815 hectares and the program was forecast to save the region $96 million over 30 years.

Under the scheme, a levy was charged to landholders who didn’t meet their invasive pest control obligations to offset the collective costs incurred by all landholders from those uncontrolled pests. 

The three-year old program was scrapped following a change in leadership at the 2020 Southern Downs local elections in favour of a dialled-back plan leaving pest control in the hands of landholders.

“The new scheme reverts back to the old idea of hoping people control pests on their lands without financial incentives, an approach used across most of Australia and has proved ineffective time and time again,” said Andrew Cox, Invasive Species Council CEO.

“There was strong evidence the scheme was working and a survey found it was popular amongst most landholders. The abandonment of the scheme left us with no choice. We had to retract the Southern Downs Regional Council’s Froggatt Award. 

“The awards began in 2003 and we’ve never had to do this before. Hopefully we will never have to do it again.” said Mr Cox.

The winners of the Froggatt Awards 2021 are the Gamba Grass Roots community group for their on-going campaign against one of Australia’s most alarming invasive weeds; Lord Howe Island Board’s Rodent Eradication Program for nearing completion of the world’s largest ever rodent eradication from an inhabited island and the West Riverina Pest Program for removing 40,000 feral pigs from the region using a suite of novel pest control technology.

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