By Jed Lanyon
The growing invasion of wild deer continues to plague Yarra Valley wineries, costing businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages and preventative measures, but a strategy to deal with the issue could still be months away.
Eildon MP Cindy McLeish told Star Mail she has been frustrated at the lack of response and action taken by the state government in releasing a deer management strategy, which is now a year overdue.
Ms McLeish said that the Minister for Agriculture reported to her stating the final deer management strategy would not be released until later this year.
“I have complaints constantly from locals who are fed up with their crops, vineyards and gardens being destroyed,” she said.
“Even worse are reports of illegal hunting. Residents can hear gun shots close by, spot light torches being shone into their homes and often find headless carcasses left by the road.”
Wine Yarra Valley president and local winemaker Franco D’Anna said re-classifying the destructive animal as a pest, would be a great start to tackling the issue.
“They really need to change the legislation … They’re not native and the desecration to the bushland is unbelievable.
“Unless they are declared as a pest it’s going to be hard to keep their numbers under control.”
Mr D’Anna fears deer numbers will spiral as estimates state that the current Victorian deer population of one million could explode to 2.5 million in just five years.
“20 years ago you wouldn’t see one deer, now it’s like every night you’ll see them,” he said.
“The deer can do up to $100,000 in damages in just one night. Once they eat the crop it’s gone. And there’s not a lot of ways to stop them unless there are shooters out every night.”
Mr D’Anna said that illegal hunters were also a big concern across the Yarra Ranges as he had experienced hunters shooting from their vehicles, while a horse on a neighbouring property had been killed, being mistaken for a deer.
To address the issue, Mr D’Anna opted to erect 1.9 metre high cyclone fencing around the 270 hectare vineyard at Hoddles Creek Estate as a preventative measure. He said the costs to secure the property with fencing exceeded $200,000.
“It’s a massive cost to the industry and it’s only going to get worse.”
Australian Deer Association executive officer, Barry Howlett expressed his concerns to Ms McLeish.
“Increasing deer numbers in Victoria are impacting agriculture and biodiversity in the region,” he said.
“We need a well-considered plan that takes into consideration the views of everyone in the community.”
“We have been waiting over 12 months for a practical framework that identifies actions based on the greatest needs.”
A Victorian government spokesperson said they are developing a Deer Management Strategy that will provide a clear and coordinated approach to deer management in Victoria.
It is being developed between the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions in response to several factors, including the rapid increase in wild deer numbers across the state.
“Swift action has been taken to control deer following the bushfires earlier this year, which has been aimed at reducing their impact and spread following the fires,” the spokesperson said.
“Release of the final Victorian Deer Management Strategy will be later this year.”