Household fruit growers across Victoria have less than a week to update their netting or risk “significant” penalties. 

Key points:

  • Victorian household fruit growers will need to update netting or face penalties over $3,000 under new laws
  • Wildlife Victoria want commercial growers to abide by the same requirements
  • The Wildlife Act 1975 is currently under review for the first time in over 45 years

The law covering backyard fruit growers is the final piece of Victoria’s Protection of Cruelty to Animals (POCTA) Act 2019, designed to help safeguard animal welfare while enabling food and fibre industries to function responsibly and productively.

From September domestic fruit growers will be required to use netting with an aperture of five millimetres by five millimetres at full stretch. 

“These requirements have been put in place because we have a large number of our native wildlife that suffer horrific injury and often death, unfortunately, when they’re caught in fruit tree netting,” CEO of Wildlife Victoria, Lisa Palma, said.

Bat caught in netting which is used to protect crops and fruit trees.

New Victorian legislation, starting in September, aims to protect wildlife from domestic fruit tree nets.(

Supplied: Bat Conservation and Rescue Qld Inc

)

Ms Palma said during summer last year Wildlife Victoria found nearly 300 cases of wildlife caught in domestic fruit tree netting. 

“That ranged from flying foxes, which were the majority of cases, we found magpies, rainbow lorikeets, sulfur-crested cockatoos and possums.” 

“We know that is only the tip of the iceberg, we suspect that in a lot of cases the animals are already deceased or they may be unreported.” 

Wildlife ‘agricultural pest’

Ms Palma said Wildlife Victoria supported the requirement of household fruit growers to use less dangerous netting, but wanted reform for commercial growers to adhere to the new law. 

“Households that are growing fruit in their backyards and may have a little bit extra that they’re selling at farmers markets will be required to respond to the new laws.” 

Penalties for breaching the laws and using incorrect netting would be significant, Ms Palma said.

“The fine for using fruit netting that doesn’t meet the new specifications will be $3,303 and also a fine of $660 will apply to anyone advertising the illegal netting or offering it for sale.” 

Fruit tree netting

One way to minimize harm to wildlife is by netting individual branches rather than the entire tree.(

Supplied: Victorian Department of Agriculture

)

The Victorian Government said in a statement it was not considering expanding the new regulations to commercial growers, citing consultation in the development of the POCTA Act which indicated that the area of concern for wildlife entanglement was in household situations.

However the government was reviewing the Wildlife Act 1975, which has not been comprehensively reviewed since it became law more than 45 years ago.

Ms Palma said among other improvements to the Act, the classification of wildlife as an agricultural pest should be reformed. 

Rainbow Lorikeet colourful parrot in a flowering tree

Rainbow lorikeets get caught in fruit tree netting, and often need to be euthanased due to the injury caused.(

Supplied: BirdLife Australia

)

“There are a number of aspects of the Act that need to change, and Wildlife Victoria has submitted a very comprehensive submission to government that we are absolutely hoping that government takes on board in revising the Act.” 

“People across the state really care about and regard our wildlife.” 

Submissions for the Wildlife Act are closed and the panel making recommendations to the Victorian Government for the reform of the Act are currently considering the materials from a range of stakeholders.

Backyard fruit growers have days to remove netting that is lethal to wildlife
Source:
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