Ahead of the NSW election, the Invasive Species Council has sounded a warning that NSW faces a pest and weed disaster due to the cumulative effect of recent natural disasters, climate change, underfunding and a lack of political will.
The Council has released a comprehensive policy platform, Combating Invasive Species: Priorities for the next NSW Government, which identifies policies, funding and reforms needed to strengthen the biosecurity system and address key environmental threats from pests, weeds and exotic diseases.
The Council is calling for investment in an additional 300 FTE frontline pest and weed officers across the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Local Land Services, the Department of Primary Industries and local government at a cost of $37.5 million per year.
‘NSW is facing an invasive species crisis due to the cumulative effect of recent natural disasters, climate change, underfunding and a lack of political will,’ said Invasive Species Council advocacy manager Jack Gough.
‘Our frontline pest and weeds agencies are understaffed, underfunded and have been under enormous pressure over the last four years as they responded to fire, drought, floods, COVID-19 and the varroa mite outbreak.
‘The cumulative impact of these natural disasters is now impacting routine operations and preventing ambitious environmental action on invasives.
‘Invasive species are the highest impact driver of extinctions, directly endangering 70 per cent of threatened wildlife and ecosystems in NSW. They degrade and damage waterways and bushland, kill native wildlife and prevent regeneration.
‘Weeds like lantana and madeira vine are smothering our native plants, feral foxes and cats prey upon our birds and small mammals and streams and wetlands are being trampled by hard-hoofed feral deer and horses. New threats on our doorstep like red imported fire ants or tilapia fish could cause new extinctions if they make it into NSW.
‘Invasive species are also a direct threat to First Nations’ cultural heritage and connection to Country. Weeds, feral animals and pests lead to the destruction of sacred sites and cultural landscapes and the extinction of Indigenous totem species.
‘Whoever wins government in NSW must tackle invasive species, including the key issues of highly damaging feral horses in the Snowy Mountains, stopping the spread of feral deer, ending the sale of weedy plants through nurseries and enacting responsible cat ownership rules which protect our native wildlife.
‘Key regional independents like Joe McGirr in Wagga Wagga and the NSW Greens have already come out in support of many of the policies and funding we are recommending. We hope that their leadership in this area will be matched by ambitious action by all parties and candidates,’ said Mr Gough.
Key invasive species priorities for the next NSW government include:
- Investing in an additional 300 FTE frontline pest and weed officers across the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Local Land Services, the DPI and local government.
- Amending the Companion Animals Act to allow local councils to introduce pet cat containment policies (in line with every other state/territory except WA).
- The urgent removal of feral horses in Kosciuszko National Park and repeal of the Brumby Protection Bill.
- The creation of an Indigenous Commissioner for Country to advise on the management of invasive species and their impact on indigenous culture and country.
- Ensuring weedy plants cannot be sold through nurseries and an increase to the Weeds Action Program to $20 million/year.
- Establishing dedicated statewide feral deer and feral pig coordinator roles.
- A commitment to stopping the spread of feral deer, including into the Blue Mountains, western NSW and the Northern Rivers.
The Invasive Species Council election policy platform, Combating Invasive Species: Priorities for the next NSW Government, is available for download here.
Background notes for editors:
- The Invasive Species Council is an independent non-government organisation that advocates for stronger laws, policies and programs to keep Australian biodiversity safe from weeds, feral animals and other invaders.
- The recent NSW State of the Environment report found that the health of NSW’s environment is in significant decline, invasive species threaten more than 70% of threatened species and endangered ecological communities and the spread of emerging invasive species is getting worse.
- In addition to the environmental impact, weeds in NSW account for at least $1.8 billion a year in lost production and pest animals cost the NSW economy more than $170 million every year.
- Every year feral and pet cats in Australia kill over 1 billion mammals, 400 million birds, 600 million reptiles and 90 million frogs.
- The feral deer population has grown tenfold in the past two decades to around 2 million animals and is spreading in NSW at a rate of about 1 million hectares per year.
- Feral horse numbers in Kosciuszko National Park have increased 30% in the past two years to almost 19,000 despite a government commitment to reduce them to 3,000 by 2027. The numbers have almost quadrupled since the Coalition came to power in 2011.