THE ACT Government wasted $600,000 of taxpayers money on a failed scheme to release Eastern bettongs into the wild, with all 67 bettongs and their young perishing, Estimates answers reveal.
Despite the bettongs dying, mostly due to foxes, Environment Minister Rebecca Vassarotti insisted the project was a success.
Ms Vassarotti said the objective was to see if bettongs could survive in an unfenced environment, adding “the results … provide valuable insight into the level of fox control required for bettongs to persist in this environment.”
Shadow Environment Minister Leanne Castley said it seemed a harebrained scheme.
“We know foxes and cats are predators that hunt bettongs so why release bettongs into the wild?” Ms Castley said.
“It appears to be an exorbitant amount of money spent on a trial to release bettongs, knowing they will be in peril, counting how many days they will survive.
“Almost 10 years ago the ACT government and ANU brought over 35 bettongs from Tasmania which were released into the cat and fox-free Mulligans Flat.
“The bettong population has since exploded thanks to food and no feral predators and today there are more than 100 bettongs bouncing about Mulligans Flat Sanctuary, so why such an expensive and foolish trial?”
Ms Castley called on the Environment Minister to rule out any more bettong trials and guarantee she will spend money sensibly on the environment.
“Planting more trees would be a great place to start given the government has an ambitious 30 per cent tree canopy target by 2045,” she said.
“The Canberra Liberals support at least a 30 per cent target but this year the government will only plant 9000 trees which is pathetically low,” Ms Castley concluded.