In response to a public outcry, Katters Australia Party is drafting legislation to remove or cull crocodiles in northern waterways after a spate of savage attacks on tourists and residents.
The recent death of a spearfisherman and the mauling of a man at Innisfail by crocodiles prompted a series of public meetings called by the Member for Dalrymple Shane Knuth to gauge public support for crocodile removal, culling, egg collection and safari hunting.
Meetings were held last week at Mareeba, Innisfail and Port Douglas.
At the Mareeba meeting Mr Knuth said the attacks had been given international media coverage and tourists were now cancelling visits to the Far North because they were frightened of being attacked by a salt water crocodile.
Former deputy Mayor of Mareeba Shire, Evan McGrath spoke of crocodiles close to the town and how farmers had been menaced by them when checking their water pumps in creeks and channels.
He said crocodiles had been seen in irrigation channels and the Barron River near his farm. “Their numbers are out of control in areas where crocodiles have never been seen before.”
“Enough is enough,” Mr Knuth told a supportive audience of more than 100 residents.
“We have to bring the numbers back under control. Over the past 40 years since croc shooting finished the numbers have exploded and crocs no longer fear man and they have become cheeky and not afraid to attack people or domestic animals.”
A three metre long photo backdrop of a crocodile with a kelpie in its mouth reminded the audience of the audacity and savagery of a crocodile eating a pet dog near Innisfail two weeks ago, greatly upsetting the dog’s young owner.
Supporting the KAP legislation was the Chairman of Cape York Peninsula Land Council Richie Ahmat who suggested a truck load of large crocs should be taken from a local crocodile farm and dropped into the Brisbane River.
“Then we would see some action,” Mr Ahmat quipped.
Former Gulf area cattle station manager Jack Fraser told the meeting the excessive number of crocs in the vast Lower Gulf district were out of hand and should be culled as a matter of urgency.
He said several years ago a large crocodile on a cattle station was found dead on a riverbank. It was cut open to reveal 60 plastic cattle ear tags in its stomach.
“Sixty ear tags represents a loss to the station of about $60,000 worth of stock on today’s market,” Mr Fraser said.
Member for Kennedy Bob Katter received thunderous applause when he stated the obvious: “The Brisbane Government does not care a less about North Queenslanders and it is time we looked after our own problems.
“Home rule is across the world and like Brexit, North Queensland must now take a stance,” referring to a new State of North Queensland.
Member for Mt Isa Robbie Katter said he would present a bill to State Parliament in the May sittings to address runaway crocodile numbers that were of grave danger to the public.
He alluded to making unchecked crocodile attacks a precursor to blocking the May budget should the Labor Government not support his bill.
Meanwhile the Independent Member for Cook, Billy Gordon, did not attend either the Mareeba or Port Douglas meetings held in his electorate.
On his Facebook page after the meetings Mr Gordon claimed he would not be supporting the crocodile removal legislation because he had not been invited to either the Mareeba or Port Douglas meetings.
“The needs of my electorate are quite substantive, the areas of health, education, telecommunications….and tourism are of primary concern to me,” the post said.
“It’s on these issues that hard- nosed negotiations should be had on.
“As a matter of public record I have not been invited to or included in meetings in both Mareeba and Port Douglas to advocate for culling of crocs.”
A KAP spokesman said today Mr Gordon’s office was contacted early on Tuesday morning by staff inviting him to the meeting.
“On Wednesday morning his office put in an apology telling us they were unsure if Mr Gordon would attend,” the spokesman said.
“A meeting flyer was emailed to his office. KAP contacted his staff who said they were unable to send a representative to the meeting.
“KAP staff also left a message on his phone,” the spokesman said.
Mr Gordon is believed to be in Melbourne and was unable to be contacted for comment.
At the Mareeba forum, local Labor Party stalwart Duncan McInnes said most Aboriginal communities and Traditional Owners he had spoken to supported the proposed legislation.
Two weeks ago an experienced spear fisherman, Warren Hughes, swimming a reasonable distance from the mouth of the Russell River, north of Innisfail, was partially eaten by a 4.3 metre crocodile.
His family and friends are shocked beyond belief because death by crocodile attack is a very unpleasant way to die.
Now it seems this croc had been previously captured by wildlife officers then released because it did not show any signs of aggression. The Russell River is known locally to be crawling with crocodiles and has been for many years.
A prominent and respected professional member of the North Queensland community reported a large crocodile in the Russell River to the Department of Environment in recent months.
KAP Member for Kennedy, Bob Katter’s office has been informed that allegedly the reported crocodile was then trapped by the Department and released again as it did not show aggressive behaviour and was thought not to be a threat. It is said to have measured 4.3 metres.
This croc that attacked the Cairns spearfisherman was shot dead by wildlife officers last Tuesday. Any person living in the far north knows instinctively a crocodile from 500 mm to five metres long is a threat to humans.
This comes just two weeks after the State Government announced its crocodile management plan, where ‘remove and release’ are considered a key feature.
Mr Katter said, “We are saying you need croc culling, whether you put them into farms or whether you shoot them.
“The fundamental failure of the Government is that is has not come to grips with the grave danger to people, human beings from flying foxes and crocodiles. There couldn’t be a worse way to die.
“The way a crocodile kills you is just horrific. Who would impose that danger upon the people of your state?”
“The Government is talking about management programs that will scientifically assess the numbers and monitor and remove… ‘Remove, yeah to where?’ Well, North Queenslanders are laughing.
Seven years ago, a former member of Parliament had a mob of horses running in a leased paddock that fronted the freshwater upper reaches of the Russell River upstream from the Bruce Highway bridge .
There were several mares and foals running in the paddock over 12 months. When the owner came back to get the horses there were no foals and two mares were also missing.
A local farmer said he saw a crocodile attack a foal on the water’s edge so it was not hard to work out what had happened to the other horses.
An Aboriginal community member from Cape York Peninsula told Cairns News a week ago that not only saltwater crocs are in plague proportions but the smaller freshwater crocodile has bred profusely in creeks and rivers on the Peninsula over the past 40 years.
Dozens of ‘freshies’ were counted last year in a small, seasonal waterway just north of the Mitchell River in a nearly dry hole measuring 50 metres by five metres.
This was not normal and their numbers were so high that “not a fish has been left in our creeks and waterholes because the freshies cleaned up the lot,” said the traditional owner.
He said the explosion of crocodile numbers had unbalanced the environment and he doubted the barramundi and catfish numbers would ever be restored.
Mr Katter said he supported crocodile safari hunting run by Aboriginal communities to supplement their dwindling income in areas that once supported thousands of cattle and many jobs for indigenous people.
The Douglas Shire Council at Port Douglas is worried their tourist town will be bypassed by overseas visitors because of large crocodiles found at their beaches. Over the past three weeks three dogs have been taken by crocs while walking along their famous beaches. Late last year a woman was killed by a large croc just north of Port Douglas at Daintree.