Property owners and businesses will be encouraged to replace dangerous backyard fruit tree netting with more animal-friendly versions.
Unable to ban the netting’s sale at the moment, the ACT Government’s move is intended to address the safety of vulnerable wildlife including the Grey-headed flying fox.
The nets, used to protect fruit trees from hungry wildlife, also place other animals including birds and possums at risk.
In November last year, ACT Greens crossbencher Jo Clay urged the government to follow Victoria’s lead and ban the sale of backyard netting not deemed animal-friendly.
Animal-friendly netting is defined as products with a mesh size of 5 mm by 5 mm or less.
Major retailers such as Bunnings already only carry the smaller netting.
Larger netting has been attributed to the death of 71 flying foxes in 2021; 60 per cent of these animals ended up in the care of ACT Wildlife.
Ms Clay had also called on the government to develop a program to educate the community about the dangers netting with larger mesh sizes could pose to wildlife and devise a plan to help residents replace it.
Those calls have been heeded by the ACT Government, although banning wider-mesh netting is likely to prove more difficult than anticipated because of Commonwealth laws.
Its official response to Ms Clay’s motion stated it was considering a range of options.
“A complicating factor to progressing these options is to ensure the ACT complies with the Commonwealth’s Mutual Recognition Act 1992,” the response stated.
“This act does not allow the ACT to introduce legislation that would ban the sale of these nets in retailers when other states and territories have not done so.”
The Victorian Government’s netting ban came into effect in November 2021.
The laws ban the household use and sale of the netting under Victoria’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Regulations 2019 (POCTA Regulations). They don’t apply to commercial settings.
Anyone caught failing to comply with the legislation faces fines of more than $2700.
The ACT Government is working on a program that will help Canberrans replace non wildlife-friendly netting free of charge. This will be supported by a public education program.
Those commitments have been welcomed by Ms Clay, the party’s spokesperson for animal welfare.
“This program will help Canberrans use wildlife-safe netting here in the ACT. It will have a direct positive impact on this species and many others,” Ms Clay said.
“It will help curb the loss of numbers and deliver the community education and ongoing conversation we need to take better care of our wildlife. It will help us keep the amazing creatures we’ve been blessed with, so that future generations can share a planet with them too.
“While the exchange program is still being developed, I encourage Canberrans to take action themselves and replace non wildlife-friendly netting with a friendly version available from local retailers.”
Long-time ACT Wildlife volunteer Denise Kay said last year that saving flying foxes was risky business for volunteers who were often required to climb trees to catch the animals and must be vaccinated to touch them.
“The netting we are cutting bats out of at the moment is atrocious,” Ms Kay said. “We really want to see some decent netting on the market and assistance with the cost for people to change over.”
She said it was also distressing for volunteers to see the bats in so much pain.
If you see an injured animal, call ACT Wildlife on 0432 300 033.