A patchwork of laws and a lack of resources for rural landowners to control feral animals is harming efforts to keep Australian native fish alive in the Murrumbidgee River near the Snowy Mountains, according to an inquiry submission.
In a submission to a federal parliamentary inquiry on feral pests, the Upper Murrumbidgee Demonstration Reach said it wanted better mechanisms and more funding to reduce feral deer, goat and pig populations destroying aquatic ecosystems and threatened fish in water catchment areas.
Reach facilitator Antia Brademann said species like the Murray River cod or Macquarie perch relied on clear water to lay eggs and unmitigated flows to travel and breed across the Murrumbidgee.
The Murrumbidgee River starts near Cooma, passes through the ACT, before connecting to the Murray River in north-west Victoria.
"What we've found increasingly the state of the catchment and ground cover levels in the catchment can impact the amount of fine sediment into the rivers," Ms Brademann said.
Ms Brademann said because of the poor state of the riverbanks, recent storms had muddied the Murrumbidgee for "quite a long time".
Goats and deer were to blame for this destruction - by trampling through or overgrazing river areas - and efforts to control were hampered by a lack of resources and poor policy, said Ms Brademann.
She said different laws in the ACT and NSW prioritised control of different animals or managed them differently, creating a patchwork across the Murrumbidgee.
It was only voluntary for NSW landholders to control goats on their property and even if they wanted to, it would cost the landholders, according to Ms Brademann.
"Under the legislation, if an animal isn't a priority under the legislation, it doesn't receive funding support," Mr Brademann said.
"In some cases you might have landholders who might have have lifestyle or recreational purposes ... those landholders might not have the resources."
Plus, unless the goats or other feral animals were impacting landholder's business, they might have no incentive to deal with the pests, Ms Brademann said.
Ms Brademann said the solution would be to provide landholders with advice on dealing with feral pests, as well as infrastructure and resources for their removal.
"Unless you're getting everyone addressing the issue, you're going to have a substandard effect," she said.
"We would like to see more education around the need for feral animal control on a larger scale to benefit catchment health, especially where the protection of catchment health is really vital to protect high quality aquatic habitats in priority areas."
She pointed to recent calls to urgently fence off a three kilometre section of Tantangera Creek in Kosciuszko National Park to protect a critically endangered fish from habitat destruction by feral horses.
Ms Brademann's submission said deer were overgrazing riverbanks across the catchments and were destroying revegetation and bank stabilisation projects.
"Managing this problem is very difficult as it requires specialised fencing or landscape scale control projects," Ms Brademann said.
But she said governments needed to fund incentive programs to build deer fencing and revegetate landscapes.
"We're not calling for hard-hitting legislation," Ms Brademann said.
"We do need to find some cooperate way in which we manage these pests."