A STATE government minister has come under fire from a Parramatta based bush charity claiming “inaction” on widespread mice infestation in farming regions exposing their volunteers to health risks.
Jannine Jackson, national director of Frontier Services said she had written letters to NSW agriculture minister Adam Marshall expressing fears for the health and safety of farmers and their families and a dozen volunteers working on mice-infested farms.
The volunteers are currently posted in the state’s central tablelands, south-west, central west and through to the north coast bordering to Queensland where farmers have to plead Mr Marshall to declare a plague and urgently conduct mouse eradication simultaneously in affected regions.
“We are getting heaps of calls from farmers and volunteers asking for help and you can imagine their situation being trapped in those farms and having to deal with the carcasses and smell of dead mice,” Ms Jackson says.
“We have an example of one family in Coonamble killing more than 35,000 mice in 10 weeks.
“It’s a major health risk for our volunteers who are trapped on farms where they can’t get through on roads destroyed after the recent flood.
Ms Jackson said Frontier has been coordinating with the town mayors in Coonamble and Dubbo and those further inland in the south west where colonies of mice are chewing on foundations of farmhouses, sheds, grain, stock feeds, hay stocks, and water tanks.
Frontier, run by the Uniting Church, has been operating charity work in remote farming regions across Australia since 1894, assisting farming families affected by natural calamities such as drought, bushfire, and flood.
Ms Jackson said Mr Marshall has not formally responded to the emails except to acknowledge his office received her messages.
“I have rung Adam’s office and sent emails and I’ve left voice mails,” Ms Jackson said.
Mr Marshall’s office has been contacted for comment, but the staff informed the Parramatta Times that he was “on the road travelling at the moment.”
A spokesman for the Department of Primary Industry, the agency under Mr Marshall’s portfolio has however responded and confirmed they have received “feedback from primary producers suggests mouse numbers in some areas have declined following a period of cold weather and heavy rain.”
But the threat of mouse infestation has remained for the coming winter months thus the DPI has advised affected farmers “to reduce the availability of food and shelter for mice” while at the same time applying pesticide baits to control the spread.
The spokesman said a permit has recently been granted by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicine Authority (APVMA) for the affected farmers to use zinc phosphide bait and deter the mouse foraging on autumn crops.
The DPI has directed the farmers to obtain updated information on how to manage pests on crops through the MouseAlert website as well as CSIRO.
As of March, MouseAlert has recorded nine recent reports of “moderate to high” mouse activity the northern, central, and southern parts of NSW. Previously, there has been 1,297 reports across Australia.
Ms Jackson said they have observed that mouse bait products are now in short supply at stores such as Bunnings as landholders grapple with the infestation across NSW.
“The infestation has gone right through the border to Queensland and Victoria and if they don’t get this under control, the mouse will be reaching Sydney households very shortly and it’s going to be a nightmare,” Ms Jackson said.
Photos: Jannine Jackson, national director of Frontier Services and the mice infestation.
By ELIZABETH FRIAS