If you use netting to protect your fruit or vegetable harvest you need to be aware of new provisions under Victoria’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Regulations 2019 (POCTA Regulations).
The regulations are being introduced in September 2021 and relate to the sale and use of household fruit netting. They do not apply to commercial circumstances.
From September 1, 2021, any netting used to protect household fruit-trees, vegetable gardens, or other fruiting plants must have a mesh size, when at full stretch, of no greater than 5mm x 5mm.
Netting advertised or offered for sale for household use must also be compliant with these required mesh specifications.
Netting with a large mesh size is more likely to entangle birds, possums or flying foxes. Their subsequent struggles to free themselves may cause deep cuts and strangulation, often leading to death.
Recent correspondence received by Agriculture Victoria has indicated that households are keen to ensure that any netting they use, or purchase, even in advance of the regulations coming into force, is compliant. This is understandable as some types of netting have a lifespan of more than a single season and many gardeners are aware that using compliant netting helps protect Victoria’s wildlife.
Any existing household fruit netting that does not meet this specification must be replaced with appropriate netting before September 1, 2021.
Don’t forget that old netting, when discarded, can still be an entanglement risk. It helps to place old netting into a strong biodegradable bag before putting it into landfill.
An alternative to netting is the use of fruit bags that are placed over individual branches or fruit clusters. These also reduce the risk of capturing animals while leaving excess fruit available for hungry wildlife.
Further advice on protecting fruit trees and wildlife, and helping injured wildlife, is available here.
An education campaign is due to commence shortly to engage more broadly with Victoria’s gardening community and to promote the change in fruit netting requirements ahead of next year’s changes. Find more information on the POCTA Regulations here, or speak to the Animal Welfare Victoria team via email.