New garden netting laws - don't get caught

The death and injury of wildlife such as this flying fox has prompted garden netting rule changes.
Camera IconThe death and injury of wildlife such as this flying fox has prompted garden netting rule changes. Credit: AAP

For decades keen gardeners have been covering their prized fruit trees and flowers in netting to protect them from preying wildlife.

But in an Australian-first, it's now the prey that are being protected.

Victoria this week implemented regulatory changes which require netting used by households to be fine enough so that creatures can't get stuck and possibly perish.

Among the fatalities have been flying foxes, magpies, possums and sulphur-crested cockatoos, with Wildlife Victoria responding to 285 netting cases in 2020.

"We believe our case numbers are just the tip of the iceberg. It's highly likely that a lot of animals may not be called in to Wildlife Victoria because they may already be deceased or they haven't been noticed," spokeswoman Lisa Palma said.

In March 2018, 44 rainbow lorikeets were trapped in netting covering an apple tree in suburban Melbourne and 25 of them died.

The regulatory changes by Agriculture Victoria kicked in on Wednesday, requiring a mesh size of 5mm by 5mm or less at full stretch.

"Netting with a large mesh size is more likely to entangle animals and their struggling can cause deep cuts and strangulation, often leading to death," the Agriculture Victoria website reads.

"Reducing the mesh size of netting will greatly reduce the risk of animal entanglement."

Fines of up to $2700 can apply for the sale or use of unapproved netting.

"When you go to someone's home and see a small animal struggling against the netting, it's a terribly sad situation. Many animals are so badly injured, they have to be euthanised," Ms Palma said.

"By switching to the appropriate netting, domestic fruit tree growers will make a huge difference to wildlife welfare in this state.

"It's important for all Victorians to remember that as humans, we share our homes, backyards and landscape with native wildlife. It's their home too."

The new regulations do not apply in commercial settings.

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