New Victorian invasive species law fails to measure up

Media Release |

The Victorian Invasive Species Control Bill 2014, tabled in the Victorian Parliament late last week, guarantees Victoria’s already dire invasive species problems will continue to worsen.

The Minister for Agriculture, Peter Walsh, delivered his second reading speech for the promised Bill in Parliament on Thursday last week.

“The legislation is far from being best-practice invasive species legislation”, said Andrew Cox, Invasive Species Council CEO.

“While broadening the powers to act against invasive species, the Bill does not have sufficient powers or obligations to fully implement Victoria’s biosecurity strategy and its invasive species policy framework.

“With most of the Bill’s powers being discretionary, we fear that government action will become even more limited to match shrinking resources.

“The Bill lacks a strong prevention focus – as reflected in the lack of objectives to reduce the threat from invasive species and prevent new invasions.

“One of the key features of the Bill is the simplification of the listing system. Instead of four different declaration categories for listing weeds and pest animals (currently the case under the Conservation and Land Protection Act), the Bill proposes two categories: species where eradication may be possible and all other invasive species. There are benefits of the simplified system, but it also has major flaws.

“The new powers cannot be used for species listed under the Wildlife Act, including deer, exotic game birds and native plants which may be spread to become invasives. This is a major limitation and would forever prevent one of Australia’s worst emerging vertebrate pests – feral deer – from being formally controlled in Victoria”, said Mr Cox.

“The listing system does not include a ‘permitted list’ approach that is widely recognised as the best mechanism to prevent the spread of new invasive species. Without this mechanism, already in place in Western Australia, nurseries will be able to continue selling weedy plants that will eventually escape to become problems for future land managers and costs for future taxpayers.

“The measures in the Bill are almost identical to those proposed in a discussion paper introduced in late 2012 and show that the government hasn’t listened to the concerns raised by stakeholders.

“Another important biosecurity reform partly missing from the legislation is a ‘duty of care’ that requires everybody to avoid creating a biosecurity risk. This idea was recently implemented in Queensland and is now proposed for NSW. It aims to ensure that everybody is playing their part in tackling invasive species.

“The high threshold for listing a species for eradication will mean many important eradication programs needed to protect the environment will never get started. Last year’s refusal to eradicate the new outbreak of the smooth newt from waterways in a Melbourne suburb last year highlights how the flow of new invasive species impacting on Victoria’s environment is unlikely to be slowed under the new bill.

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For comment

Andrew Cox, Invasive Species Council: 0438 588 040

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