Last month, David Llewellyn in the presence of biologist Nick Mooney promised to re-instate funding to the Fox-Free Taskforce.

Since then DPIW announced a ‘new’ Fox-Free Taskforce effort with up to 60 workers. Staff from some ‘sunset’ areas within DPIW plus their salary budgets are being redeployed into the FFTF effort. There is no new spending here from the State Government.  The ‘real’ spending money is now eagerly awaited courtesy of the Commonwealth.

In 2006 the Taskforce was undergoing dissolution with reductions in staff, operating budgets and closure of regional offices. Then Senator Abetz challenged the Minister responsible for foxes, David Llewellyn to reinstate State funding for the FFTF, offering parity funding from the Commonwealth.

David Llewellyn went for an ambitious ambit claim announcing a $56 million decade of fox funding — $28 million from the State matched dollar-for-dollar with the Commonwealth.

In order to make up the State component of the deal, to date nearly $900,000 has been taken from two DPIW branches to be re-allocated to the FFTF budget as part the State’s annual contribution to the decade-long war on foxes. It seems some staff and funds will come from other Agencies and GBEs such as PWS and Forestry Tasmania. This is ‘re-badged’ State funds and not new money and its aim is to secure real funds from the Commonwealth.

Remember Llewellyn needs to get to a figure of ~$2.8 million per annum for 10 years in order to convince Senator Abetz to give Tasmania the extra $2.8 million p.a. for the next decade.

Nature Conservation and Wildlife Management branches within DPIW have suffered with fragile and dwindling budgets for decades. These important areas of natural resource management have been systematically dismembered and the budgets for key projects & staff essentially propped up by Commonwealth funding. In the last few years there have been calls from department biologists to take a more pro-active and contemporary attitude to biodiversity monitoring and invasive species. 

Sadly that visionary thinking is not being accepted by the political gatekeepers and, more to the point, the State coffers are empty! Cost blow-outs on projects like Elwick racetrack and offers of $15 million to an AFL football team, not to mention the cost run-overs in the State Health budget means that Tasmania needs to work hard to find creative ways to make new money appear. The politicians know this, the Department bureaucrats know this, and the rank-in-file workers understand this.

So who benefits from Tasmania’s $56 million decade long war on foxes? 

Such decisions might seem clever and creative to State apparatchiks but they do need to be based on sound science. If there is no substance to the policy then at best this is disingenuous and devious and at worst potentially fraudulent and corrupt conduct.

In the absence of genuine reliable evidence it will be extremely difficult to sustain the good will of the Commonwealth to bank roll a decade long war on foxes campaign … especially without credible bio-intelligence and forensic science to support the whole program.

After examining the important fox incidents over the last 6 years I believe that Tasmanian authorities are continuing to rely on dubiously obtained or suspicious evidence. I believe that careful analysis of those incidents does not support their conclusions. The failure to promptly obtain additional credible evidence from any of the highly publicised fox hotspots (a Two-factor authentication) is significant.  Arguably if questionably derived evidence, fabrication and hoaxing is to be the basis of the strongly held belief that dozens or hundreds of foxes have now established in Tasmania then I must question the actual motive of this campaign.

Who benefits?

Six years on from the sensational allegations that up to 19 fox cubs were deliberately imported into Tasmania and recent statements from a Government biologist claiming that up to several hundred foxes may exist in various locations of the State, the presentation of an authentic image of a free-ranging Tasmanian fox or the dead body of a fox recently shot by a bona fide hunter is still awaited.

Yet we are asked to ‘believe’ that three free-ranging foxes were killed on Tasmanian roads — Burnie (2003), Lillico (2006) and Cleveland (2006) — by unknown or anonymous drivers and that another free-ranging fox left its blood at a chicken coup at Old Beach (2006).

Yet no Tasmanian hunter has been able to shoot a fox in Tasmania and no FFTF camera at any hotspot incident has imaged one. And as for the Symmons Plains fox in 2001, based on the timeline to this incident, the forensic evidence obtained and the reliability of the witnesses, in my view this remains a highly suspicious event.

The Fox Reward

 

David Obendorf

Nature Conservation and Wildlife Management branches of DPIW have suffered with fragile and dwindling budgets for decades. These important areas of natural resource management have been systematically dismembered and the budgets for key projects and staff essentially propped up by Commonwealth funding. In the last few years there have been calls for DPIW to take a more pro-active and contemporary attitude to biodiversity monitoring and invasive species. 

Sadly that visionary thinking is not being accepted by the political gatekeepers and more to the point they know the State coffers are empty! Cost blow-outs on projects like Elwick racetrack and offers of $15 million to an AFL football team, not to mention the cost run-overs in the State Health budget means that Tasmania has to find creative ways to make new money appear. The politicians know this, the Department bureaucrats know this, and the rank-in-file workers understand this.