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Council hopping mad over $1m payment to Rabbit Board

BIG MONEY PEST: Ipswich City councillors are asking, have we beaten the rabbit plague?
BIG MONEY PEST: Ipswich City councillors are asking, have we beaten the rabbit plague?

A NEW row has marred the already troubled relationship between the group responsible for keeping the district rabbit free and the Ipswich City Council.

The council says it is outraged it has paid more than $1 million to the Darling Downs Moreton Rabbit Board over the past 10 years with little to show for it.

"This council pays a rather large precept to the board each year and we often have discussions about the value of that precept," Councillor Andrew Antoniolli said.

"Quite frankly, we don't get much value from the Rabbit Board and we very rarely see them.

"We'll be writing to the Rabbit Board to express our disappointment. We and other stakeholders weren't consulted about their strategy and we pay them about $120,000 a year.

"$1,000,000 we've contributed over the past 10 years and we've received very little support."

The council has raised similar concerns before but with no result.

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Cr Paul Tully told this week's council meeting the issue was how the rabbit board was using the money because "it's the ratepayers of Ipswich who are forced to pay".

"If they aren't here, why are we paying? If they are, what are they doing about it?" Cr Tully said.

"We have no representation on the board that's based in Warwick; we hear nothing from them and get nothing out of the board."

But Darling Downs Moreton Rabbit Board chairman Ross Bartley hit back, saying the Ipswich councillors didn't appreciate the value of the board's work.

"They're not the biggest precept payer by any means. But per capita they get a great deal," Cr Bartley said.

"Because we maintain the fence that keeps rabbits out; I think we do it very cheap; we do it cheaper than councils; I know, I'm on a council.

"We have reasonable representation from the area inside the fence.

"When they're saying they're not getting anything, maybe they need to look at the fence that's protecting them. If it wasn't there, that whole area would be full of rabbits."

Cr Bartley said maintaining the 500km-plus rabbit-proof fence not far from the NSW border was a challenge the Darling Downs Moreton Rabbit Board had taken on for more than a century.

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Now he said the board was turning to the latest technology in an attempt to help keep rabbits out of Queensland.

The board says it has also set up Facebook and Twitter profiles to engage with the public, help property owners manage pests and offer an online forum to report rabbit sightings and fence or property issues.

The rabbit board is also testing sensor technology, with a small trial to be implemented later this year.

"Our staff have been monitoring gates on the fence manually on patrols for decades. It can be several days before a specific gate is checked on rotation," Cr Bartley said.

"This new technology notifies our head office when a gate is open for longer that it should be, allowing us to send staff immediately to the location.

"We hope the trial can deliver greater efficiency to our everyday operations."

The data collected will also help the DDMRB engage with residents in problem areas where it is identified gates are left open longer than necessary to get a vehicle or livestock through.

Refactor, a Queensland-based technology solutions company, has been engaged for the gate sensor trial and founder Steve Dalton was excited about the opportunity.

"Agriculture technology is a growing market in Australia and it's great the DDMRB are experimenting with solutions like these gate sensors to help farmers and manage pests," he said.

"We're proud to be a part of that work."

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Topics:  ipswich city council, rabbits



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