The Invasive Species Council welcomes today’s commitment by NSW Labor to fund 100 new National Parks field officers to tackle uncontrolled weeds and pests, maintain fire trails and support firefighting efforts.
‘New South Wales faces 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. We are pleased that Labor has listened and welcome their important commitment to 100 new frontline National Parks staff to focus on the escalating issue of pests and weeds.
‘We call on the Liberal and National parties to follow Labor’s lead and commit to increased frontline staffing to support ambitious environmental action on invasives,’ said Mr Gough .
NSW Labor’s announcement comes after the Invasive Species Council called for 300 extra frontline pest and weed officers across the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Local Land Services, the Department of Primary Industries and local government to forestall a pest and weed disaster in NSW.
‘Of course, invasive pests like feral deer or weeds like lantana do not respect property boundaries or tenure. This announcement is an important first step, but it is also vital to increase frontline staffing in Local Land Services, DPI and local governments who are responsible for tackling pests and weeds on private and crown land,’ said Mr Gough.
‘Invasive species are one of the main drivers 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 while the state’s 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.
‘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 and the sale of weedy plants through nurseries and enacting responsible cat ownership rules which protect our native wildlife,’ said Mr Gough.
Labor’s announcement comes after the NSW Greens backed the Invasive Species Council’s call for a 300 FTE increase in pest and weed staffing across all the frontline agencies.
Ahead of the NSW election, the Invasive Species Council 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.
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.
- Key invasive species priorities identified by the Invasive Species Council 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 laws which protect feral horses over native wildlife.
- 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.