Australia needs a national taskforce to stem the rising tide of environmental pests

Media Release |

The Australian Government must stem the rising tide of environmental pests by creating a national body tasked with harnessing the energy and brainpower of community volunteers already battling the nation’s escalating weed and feral animal crisis, the Invasive Species Council said today.

“The latest State of the Environment Report says 60 per cent of Australia’s nationally endangered species are threatened by introduced pests and cautions that our natural heritage is under pressure from a fast-growing number of invasive species,” the council’s CEO John DeJose said today.

“It also warns that management of impacts of invasive species on biodiversity is ‘ineffective’ and that the trend is ‘deteriorating’.

“Obviously our current approach to invasive species is not working – Australia needs a new approach to tackling its growing environmental pest problems.”

The Invasive Species Council today launched its proposal for a national biosecurity taskforce – Environment Health Australia.

“Recent research shows that Australians are very concerned about invasive species and want to know what government is doing about them,” Mr DeJose said.

“Environment groups are saying we need a new national biosecurity taskforce that can reverse decades of neglect by focusing on the growing pest threats facing our natural environment and harnessing the huge amount of energy already committed by conservation volunteers, farmers and land managers across the country.

“Establishing Environment Health Australia is the best thing the Federal Government can do now to overcome our historical neglect of these issues and give the environment a level of attention previously only enjoyed by primary industry through Animal Health Australia and Plant Health Australia.

“It will bridge the divide between government, industry and the community sector and generate smarter programs with more resources to tackle Australia’s growing invasive species problems.”

Environment Health Australia would also:

  • Improve Australia’s preparedness for new pest invasions.
  • Create effective, prioritised, national responses to environmental invasives.
  • Mobilise community vigilance in early detection and more effective pest control.
  • Monitor and report on Australia’s progress in environmental biosecurity.

“Environment Health Australia will increase our ability to detect and eradicate new invaders such as myrtle rust, a deadly pathogen that arrived on our shores just two years ago and yet has already spread from NSW to Queensland and now Victoria,” Mr DeJose said.

“It will also help us develop new ways of managing the complexities of environmental invasions, a much bigger job than simply keeping pests out of crops and weeds out of paddocks.”

In Australia invasive species have already caused the extinction of more than 40 mammals, birds and frogs, and are second only to habitat loss in their impact on our native plants and animals.

“Increased international trade and the effects of climate change are producing a heady mix for the growth of invasive species, which are predicted to rapidly expand their global footprint in the future,” Mr DeJose said.

“Australia stands to lose much more bush and many more species unless we bring together the best brains in the country to address the environmental, social and political challenges presented by existing and future invasions.

“Environmental groups across the country are concerned about the growing invasive species threats and the need for more effective management. They support the new approach proposed by the Invasive Species Council – the establishment of Environment Health Australia.”

Download ‘Keeping Nature Safe’, a proposal for the establishment of Environment Health Australia

For comment

John DeJose, Invasive Species Council CEO – 0433 586 965 (Perth).
Support for Environment Health Australia

Dr Paul Sinclair, Healthy Ecosystems Program Manager, Australian Conservation Foundation:

The Australian Conservation Foundation commends the proposal to establish a national organisation dedicated to securing Australia’s environment against further incursions by invasive species. The pragmatic and achievable options outlined by the Invasive Species Council would go a long way towards fixing a critical weakness in our national biosecurity defences. The benefits to Australia’s environment, communities and economy from the implementation of this proposal would be substantial.”

Samantha Vine, Head of Conservation, BirdLife Australia:

BirdLife Australia recognises that invasive species are a serious threat to bird species in Australia and that much more needs to be done to reduce their impacts. We support the establishment of Environment Health Australia proposed by ISC as a logical, practical and flexible platform to facilitate the improved environmental biosecurity performance required to secure the future of Australian birds.”

Tim Kelly, Chief Executive, Conservation Council of South Australia

The Conservation Council of South Australia supports the proposal by the Invasive Species Council to establish an enduring body to facilitate thinking, planning and action on the threats invasive species pose to the environment. We are involved with marine pests and know that the situation underwater is as desperate as it is on land. Environment Health Australia will be able to give the environment the special attention it needs when it comes to preventing, eradicating and controlling invasive species in a strategic and co-ordinated manner.”

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