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Reforming Victoria's authority to control wildlife system

We are progressing a range of measures to improve the authority to control wildlife (ATCW) system.

The ATCW system was set up to administer and regulate authorisations issued under the Wildlife Act 1975 for the control of wildlife.  

Authorities can only be issued where wildlife is damaging property, crops or pasture, impacting biodiversity, or posing a risk to human health or safety. Find more information on our ATCW page

Feedback themes and improvements

Improvements are informed by feedback received from stakeholders and the public through a review that started in late 2017.  

The review explored potential actions under the following themes: 

  • Theme 1: Application process  
  • Theme 2: Decision making  
  • Theme 3: Compliance monitoring and enforcement  
  • Theme 4: Traditional Owner involvement in the ATCW system  
  • Theme 5: Information provision  

Some of the reforms that have already been made are summarised below under each of the key themes from the review:  

Theme 1: The application process 

Feedback on the process to apply for an ATCW revealed it can be difficult, time consuming and limited guidance on how to apply. This can lead to some people undertaking wildlife control without the appropriate approvals. We are committed to improving the efficiency and clarity of the application process so complying with the law is as straightforward as possible. Improvements we're delivering:

  • We are working to move application processes online to make it easier to prepare and submit applications. It will also allow for better data collection. Online applications will be implemented during 2021.  

  • We are developing a streamlined application process for renewals of ATCWs. This will look at how a renewal process could be implemented, saving time for both the applicant and the assessing officer. We will make sure the process is efficient and enables a robust, risk-based assessment of applications.  

  • We are improving guidance and supporting documents available for applicants. For example, we are developing guidance regarding the most appropriate ways to estimate the number of wildlife impacting a property. This was suggested in the ATCW review and will be available later this year. 

  • The review sought feedback on whether shooter proficiency training and testing should be a requirement for those seeking an authority to lethally control wildlife. Responses to the review showed a distinct split between ATCW holders and non-ATCW holders in their views on this matter. This requirement will not be introduced because: 

    • Proficiency training and testing carries a significant cost to the applicant. 
    • Inhumane control of wildlife caused by poor shooter accuracy has not been proven by the Conservation Regulator when undertaking compliance activity. 
    • Other Australian states and territories do not require proficiency training and testing for their equivalent to an ATCW. 
    • Authorities to lethally control animals via shooting include conditions that help ensure a humane outcome. For example, conditions specify the minimum combination of firearm, calibre, and projectile weight to be used and that shooting should not be undertaken from a moving vehicle.  
    • ATCW holders can use a range of professional and experienced volunteer shooters to undertake control if an ATCW holder is not able or confident of their ability to comply with the conditions of the ATCW. 

    The introduction of a fee for ATCWs was also suggested in the review. As this would require amendments to the Wildlife Act 1975, this feedback has been provided to the Wildlife Act review independent expert panel for their consideration. 

Theme 2: Decision making 

Feedback to the review highlighted frustration with the time taken to assess and issue, or reject, an ATCW as well as the consistency in the decisions that were being made by officers in different regions. Improvements we're delivering:

  • We have made alterations to the assessment process which is leading to shorter assessment times and more consistent decision making. This includes the introduction of improved guidance for our officers across the state and the establishment of a risk-based framework for deciding when inspections are required in the assessment of ATCW applications. 

    The transition to online applications and the development of a streamlined application process for renewals outlined above will also contribute to reducing assessment times. 

    We are also working to improve the information on its website to provide current, relevant, and clear information regarding the ATCW decision making process.  

  • We seek advice from an Independent Panel of Experts when appropriate to inform assessments of ATCW applications. 

    This process now has clearer guidelines exist about the process and triggers for using the panel. 

  • The review process explored the potential to introduce a minimum threshold for damage to property, crops or pasture before an ATCW will be issued. It also explored the potential introduction of a ‘damage estimate calculator’ for use in the ATCW process. These actions will not be introduced because:   

    Damage to property, crops or pasture is only one grounds for issuing an ATCW. Other grounds include environmental impact, human health and safety and biodiversity impact. Introduction of a threshold for damage may inappropriately focus applications and assessments on damage.    

    Damage thresholds and calculators would be complex, adding burden to applicants and potentially increasing assessment timeframes. The additional burden and time required may lead potential applicants to undertake lethal control without an approval.   

    Minimum damage thresholds may disadvantage urban or small property owners.  

Theme 3: Compliance monitoring and enforcement 

This theme explored potential ways that the regulator can better ensure ATCW holders are complying with their authorisations. Improvements we are delivering:

  • We established standard practices for officers to determine the level of risk posed by an ATCW application. This ensures we are aware of high priority ATCWs. 

    The transition to online applications will enable us to determine a low-burden way for ATCW holders to report back on wildlife control they have undertaken under their ATCWs. 

    The data needs to be accurate, reliable and must minimise the ability of users to manipulate the system. The data will be used to inform targeted compliance activities. Identifying high risk cases that we want to keep an eye on.  

  • The review process considered re-introduction of the requirement to list all people that would be involved in undertaking the control of wildlife on ATCWs. This action is not supported because: 

    • Anyone undertaking control activities permitted under an ATCW is bound by its conditions so there is no necessity for them to be specifically listed. 
    • Often applicants have not decided who will undertake the control at the time of applying for an ATCW. As ATCWs are not able to be amended under the Act, adding additional parties after the issuing would require the authority to be reissued. This would increase the burden for little benefit.   

    The introduction of a Governor in Council Order for the wilful disturbance of common species, such as the Eastern Grey Kangaroo, was suggested in the review. It was also suggested to increase the number and range of sanctions that are available to Conservation Regulator Authorised Officers.

    As these suggestions would require amendments to the Wildlife Act 1975, they have been provided to the Wildlife Act review independent expert review panel for their consideration. 

Theme 4: Traditional Owner involvement in the ATCW system  

As custodians of the land Traditional Owners and Aboriginal Victorians have managed the land and the native animals that inhabit it sustainably for thousands of generations using traditional ecological knowledge. This not only benefits their own wellbeing, but also the natural environment and the Victorian community. This is why it is important to consider Traditional Owners in the ATCW system. Improvements we're delivering:

  • Traditional Owners can currently apply for an ATCW on the ground of ceremonial or cultural reasons.    

    We will appoint a Traditional Owner representative on the Independent Panel of Experts by the end of this year.   

Theme 5: Information provision 

Providing clear and useful information to the community about regulatory systems is a key responsibility of a modern and transparent regulator. Improvements we're delivering:

  • We will continue to update and produce guidance documentation to assist people to comply with the law, including ensuring the information is easily found online including:  

    • application forms 
    • guides to assist in completing an application, and 
    • historical data relating to ATCWs.  
  • We won't be notifying neighbours when an ATCW is issued, because: 

    • To do this without the consent of the ATCW holder would be a breach of the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014.
    • The notification of neighbours may lead them to break the law in attempting to interact with or move wildlife without an appropriate approval. 
    • Anyone using a firearm is required to do so in accordance with the Firearms Act 1996 and this covers areas of concern such as shooting near residences and across property boundaries. 

    The review also explored the potential introduction of third-party appeal rights to issued ATCWs. The provision of this right would require amendments to the Wildlife Act 1975, so these suggestions have been provided to the Wildlife Act review independent expert panel for their consideration.  

We would like to thank all those that have shown interest in this review, particularly those that took the time to submit responses.

Visit here to view the Engage Vic page.

Reviewed 01 July 2021

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