Historic opportunity to reduce the terrible impact of weeds in NSW – submission guide

Feral Herald |

Use this submission guide to help change the way weeds are managed in NSW. Comments to the Natural Resources Commission draft report on weed management are due Sunday 6 April 2014.

Several weeks ago the NSW Natural Resources Commission released its draft report after being asked to review weed management by the NSW Minister for Primary Industries.

We are delighted that many of the key reforms we had been seeking have been embraced in the draft report and recommendations. The most important change proposed is to restrict the sale of potential weeds in nurseries before they have gained a foothold in the wild.

It’s called a ‘permitted list approach’ and would ensure that the only plants that can be sold or moved are those that are safe and unlikely to become weeds. If implemented properly, it will close off one of the main sources of new weeds.

We’d like you to get behind these and other changes by making a submission to the draft report. We’ve also prepared a brief submission guide to explain the good and the not so good.

The NRC will finalise it’s recommendations to the Minister in May when the government will decide whether to implement them. The next six months are critical to achieving change and we are asking to you help.

The NRC are also holding public information meetings during March at Grafton, Armidale, Dubbo, Cowra, Sydney (Parramatta), Wagga Wagga or Nowra.

Submission guide

Below are the key points to make in your submission.

Remember you must make your submission by Sunday 6 April 2014.

First start your submission by congratulating the NRC for a thorough and well-presented draft report. Then make the following points:

The good

1. Support a ‘permitted list’ approach

Under the existing regime, people and nurseries can legally sell and plant hundreds of different species that will spread into bushland.

To address this the NRC has proposed a ‘permitted list’ approach to regulating plants that can be sold within NSW. Aquatic plants would be listed first, with all other plants listed within five years. It reverses the current approach of allowing any plant already in Australia to be sold in nurseries, unless specifically banned.

Ideally, only existing weeds would be on the safe list when there is no advantage to banning them. A new plant being sold must undergo a risk assessment and found to be low-risk. The NRC has also proposed registering all plant nurseries and fodder distributors.

Unfortunately there is no proposal to prevent weedy plants being brought into NSW by individuals from another state. Also the NRC has proposed that the nursery industry develops the draft permitted list before it is presented for approved.

PRIORITY: Please emphasise support for this change. If there was only one reform to be achieved, the first recommendation below to adopt a ‘permitted list’ would be our top priority.

What to say:
  • Stem the flow of new weeds into NSW by adopting a ‘permitted list’ and allowing only low-risk plants to be introduced.
  • Ensure that the permitted list is prepared by experts and that the list also applies to plants brought by individuals from interstate.

2. Improve prevention

Although prevention has long been a goal of biosecurity management, an average of seven new plants establish in the wild in NSW each year. Currently in NSW there is limited surveillance, poor coordination of eradication programs and insufficient resources to tackle new outbreaks.

The NRC has proposed to address this problem by supporting a ‘reserve fund’ to allow the rapid mobilisation of resources for new high-risk incursions and to clarify that the State Government is to take the lead on prevention and eradication to prevent new weeds.

What to say:

  • Support the proposed reserve fund for responding to new high-risk incursions.
  • Support the proposal to provide a greater emphasis to prevention and by providing a clearer role for the State Government in prevention and eradication.

3. Make controlling weed invasions a shared responsibility

Many weed invasions are preventable and result from people failing to take responsibility due to thoughtlessness, ignorance, or a presumed lack of consequence.

Effective weed management needs smart (realistic) regulation, strong economic and social incentives, and community education to motivate responsible action. It means that all landholders, public and private, should share the same obligations. It will also require the preparation of codes of practice and education material to remind the community of their obligations.

The NRC has recognised the importance of this principle by supporting the creation of a ‘general biosecurity obligation’ and supporting a tenure-neutral approach that encourages cooperative efforts and standardises the rules across public and private lands.

What to say:

  • Support the general biosecurity obligation that requires all stakeholders to take all reasonable and practical measures to minimise biosecurity risks.
  • Develop education material and codes of practice focusing on high-risk pathways to clarify the obligations expected.
  • Support the tenure-neutral approach to weed management and require public and private land managers to abide by the same weed laws.

4. Build research capacity

There is much we don’t know about weed impacts and effective management. Research is critical to understand environmental weeds, both for widespread weeds and emerging and potential weeds.

The NRC has document recent depletion of environmental weed research capacity thought cuts to funding, the closure of bodies such as the Weed Management CRC and the loss of staff working on biological controls. There is also poor research strategy and communication of results.

Importantly the NRC has supported weed research and development and measures to improve this.

What to say:

  • Support the rebuilding of NSW weeds research capacity.
  • Support the improved coordination of weeds research and the dissemination of the results.

5. Other supported recommendations

The NCR also made other positive recommendations.

What to say:

  • Support the proposal for property weed certification scheme that discloses information to buyers about a property’s weed condition prior to its sale.
  • Support the proposals for improved transparency around weed declarations.
  • Support the proposal for experts to be added to the body advising the Minister about weeds.
  • Support the proposals to strengthen enforcement and accountability.
  • Support the proposals to improving mapping, data collection and data sharing to the community.
  • Support the priority given to aquatic weeds and the need to assign management responsibility to a regional body such as local land services.
  • Support Local Land Services having a role coordinating and monitoring environmental weed programs, with close involvement of local councils, the Office of Environment and Heritage and other major public land managers.

Not so good

1. Develop a sustainable funding model

Weed management will continue to need funding. It is a long-term challenge and needs long-term funds to train and retain skilled staff, pursue the highest priority management goals and build community relationships and capacity. Higher levels of funding are justified by the extremely high environmental and economic costs of weeds (weeds are NSW farmers’ most expensive natural resource management problem).

The NRC has mentioned possible new funding sources, proposed better coordination of resources, explained the benefit of long-term funding and supported a new fund for high-risk incursions, but stopped short of a specific recommendation to increase the investment in weed management and control.

What to say:

  • Increased state and local government funds must be provide for both prevention, early action and long-term control of environmental weeds.
  • Encourage funding to be based on a ‘standards of cover’ approach (as applied to bushfires) that include measures for impacts on biodiversity, and develop a funding model to determine a fair level of contribution from governments, landholders and businesses/industries.
  • Identify new sources of long-term funding, including levies from risk creators and beneficiaries.
  • Develop programs with long-term funding guaranteed to maximise the potential for success.

2. Weed Control and Bush Regeneration

The treatment of weeds requires a consistent coordinated effort and long-term follow-up to prevent weeds re-establishing. The principles of bush regeneration recognise this, however there is no promotion of this approach or minimum standards for weed control. The approach of many land managers is to spray and forget and not to assist the return of natural vegetation. In a short period the weeds return, wasting the initial effort.

What to say:

  • Seek the development of standards for weed control that incorporate the principles of bush regeneration.

3. Give a high priority to environmental weed threats

Environmental weeds are having a devastating impact on NSW’s biodiversity. According to a 2006 study, weeds:

  • Threaten at least 341 vulnerable and endangered species (40% of those listed in NSW in 2006) and 64 endangered ecological communities (89% of the total).
  • Weeds account for 52 (43%) of the 120 most widely distributed plant species in NSW.

While the NRC noted the impacts of weeds on the natural environment, the NRC did not identify environmental weeds as a specific priority commensurate with their environmental impacts nor propose specific approaches to the many challenges associated only with environmental weeds. Mandatory landholder action for listed weeds is heavily biased towards those impacting on agricultural production.

What to say:

  • Document the extent and consequences of NSW’s environmental weed problems
  • Establish a high level ‘solutions forum’ to develop new policy approaches to high priority weed challenges, including ecological, social and economic aspects.
  • Recognise the distinctive challenges of environmental weed management and their links to other environmental threats (such as land clearing, fire, nutrients) and the need to develop more effective ecological approaches to management.
  • Establish an agency, community and industry authority to coordinate action on both weeds and feral animals based on the successful bushfire Statewide and regional committee model. Equally involve the environmental and primary industry agencies

More info

  • NSW Natural Resources Commission. 2014. Draft report. Weeds – Time to Get Serious: Review of weed management in NSW.
    Visit website >>
  • Why we need a safe list to stop new weeds. Background information by the Invasive Species Council.
    Visit page >>
  • Invasive Species Council. 2010. Stopping NSW’s Creeping Peril. A Community Call for Action on Weeds.
    Get report >>

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