• Loddon Herald

Prickle fight spike

VICTORIAN Farmers’ Federation is sweating on this month’s Victorian Budget for extra funds in the fight against wheel cactus.

The state organisation has backed calls from Wedderburn branch president Graham Nesbit for a concerted attack on the invasive plant again threatening Loddon farmland.

The VFF headquarters’ support follows last week’s Loddon Herald report on the cactus spreading in a line from Boort to Talbot in the south.

In its pre-Budget submission, the VFF wants $40 million be allocated over the next four years to public land managers to invest in pest, plant and animal management.

It says grants should be made available to catchment management authorities “to work with farming communities to develop cross-tenure management programs to reduce the impact of pest plants and animals to the economy and biodiversity”.

Meanwhile, Murray Plains MP and shadow agriculture minister Peter Walsh has joined the campaign to get the State Government to “wake up and realise the threat of wheel cactus and its remorseless spread”.

Mr Walsh said it was becoming prevalent across north central Victoria, in areas such as the Loddon, and there was now a genuine risk it would become established.

He said once it was, the weed grew densely, forming impenetrable barriers with stands having a negative impact on growth and regeneration of indigenous plants, smaller shrubs and ground flora, resulting in a major setback on lower stratum and a minor impact on mid stratum flora.

“The Andrews Labor Government, which has trouble seeing, let alone understanding, anything outside Melbourne, needs to listen to the people who know,” Mr Walsh said.

“Because they would then realise money urgently needs to be made available for the cost of chemicals needed to stop the threat now.

“We also need assistance for our landholders and Landcare groups who are the frontline in this battle.

“Wheel cactus is not usually grazed by stock because of its stout spines. In dense patches, the plant could limit access to water and reduce food available for fauna ... dense patches may limit grazing capacity.”

Agriculture Victoria says wheel cannot cannot be eradicated. In a statement on Tuesday, a spokesperson said: “Wheel cactus is declared under the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994 as a Regionally Controlled Weed in the North Central catchment.

“It is widespread and established across the North Central Catchment and in many parts of Victoria and cannot be eradicated from the state.

“Agriculture Victoria officers have made extensive and ongoing efforts with regards to this issue, continuing to work with both public and private land owners to provide technical advice and facilitate management of the weed in this area. These efforts are continuing in 2021.”

The Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions through Agriculture Victoria is responsible for administering the Catchment and Land Protection Act.

The Victorian Budget will be handed down in Parliament next Thursday.

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