Rabbit plague invades Lockyer

LOCKYER Valley is on the brink of a rabbit plague of epic proportions and stakeholders in the region are set to tackle the issue head on before it escalates.

Lockyer Valley Mayor Steve Jones said the rabbit numbers in the area had reached such high levels that they were having a detrimental impact on the agricultural industry.

The council will work with Darling Downs-Moreton Rabbit Board (DDMRB) and land owners to deal with the problem.

Mr Jones said rabbits caused "catastrophic damage" to crops and they were now destroying them at such a level that "something needs to be done before they hit plague proportions and do enormous damage".

"Because we grow carrots, lettuce and all the things they are a problem with, rabbits can cost us a lot of money in the Lockyer Valley," Cr Jones said. "We have worked well with the rabbit board before but this is the most significant outbreak we've ever had."

Lockyer Valley farmer Troy Qualischefski said he had felt the brunt of rabbits eating one of his broccoli farms.

"Anywhere along the Lockyer Creek they are a problem," he said.

"We are broccoli growers and the rabbits have annihilated 10% of the crop at one end.

"There are certain pockets that are worse than others.

"We are throwing out bait and trying to minimise the problem before it gets out of control."

Mr Qualischefski said he would welcome any assistance from the rabbit board or council.

DDMRB chairman Ross Bartley said rabbits had a long history in the Ipswich region but had thrived in the Lockyer Valley since the floods.

"There used to be an avid greyhound industry and that's what we believe introduced rabbits to the Ipswich area," he said.

"This goes back into the 1960s when the greyhound industry used rabbits as lures.

"As far as the Lockyer is concerned, the floods of 2011 and 2013 are to blame in some respects because it provided an ideal harbour for rabbits to burrow and reproduce."

"We are going to work collaboratively with Lockyer Council and with their pest management officers, and try and educate the producers as to the potential damage to the horticultural sector that these rabbits can bring.

"The rabbit board is not responsible for eradicating rabbits on private property. It is the property owner's responsibility under the pest management act because they are a class two pest. But we are willing to provide all the technical advice and wherewithal to work with producers to control this issue."

Cr Jones said the rabbit board was set to undertake a survey along a 60km stretch of the Lockyer Creek between Helidon and Lyndon to gauge the extent of the problem, and then tackle the six tributaries including Ma Ma Creek and Tenthill Creek in early 2015.

He urged any landholders who sight a rabbit to call council immediately with the location of the sighting on 1300 005 872.



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