Stopping the weed crisis in NSW

Bridal creeper is rampant in Australian bushland, but uncommon in its native South African range. Photo: Matthew Baker

Bridal creeper is rampant in Australian bushland, but uncommon in its native South African range. Photo: Matthew Baker

After land clearing, weeds are recognised as the most serious threat to endangered native plants and animals in NSW.

This threat is rapidly increasing as more weed species are introduced and spread into new areas.

That’s why the Invasive Species Council has prepared Stopping NSW’s Creeping Peril, a 26-page report calling for concerted action, largely from the NSW Government, to address the state’s growing weed problem.

The report has been endorsed by 30 organisations that represent weed experts, bush regenerators, land managers, volunteer weed groups and national, state and local conservation groups.

Stopping NSW’s Creeping Peril

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It makes 10 detailed recommendations calling for:

  1. Restricting new plant introductions to those assessed as low risk.
  2. Eradicating new invaders where feasible and preventing the spread of others into new areas.
  3. Controlling weeds to protect the environment and economy.
  4. Requiring a duty of care and implementing the ‘polluter pays’ principle.
  5. Using federal laws to address nationally significant weed threats.
  6. Increasing the priority of weed management to adapt to climate change.
  7. Developing governance arrangements that reflect the priority of weed threats for both the environment and agriculture, and provide for regional authority to implement weed plans.
  8. Providing resources sufficient to achieve priority outcomes.
    9 & 10. Supporting research and educational programs.

Why we need change

More than $50 million of public money (about half from state government), supplemented by a large voluntary expenditure and effort, is currently being spent on weed control in NSW.

However, the effort to control weeds is not keeping up with the rapid spread of weeds, and the NSW Government has conceded it is unlikely to exceed its 2015 target of ‘a reduction in the impact of invasive species’.

Weeds imperil more than 40% of NSW threatened species (mostly plants) and about 90% of endangered ecological communities.

  • 340 environmental weeds are recognised in NSW. Most were deliberately introduced as garden and pasture plants.
  • There are already more than 30,000 exotic plant species in Australia (mostly cultivated), and more than 99% can be freely sold and planted in NSW. This includes many thousands of new potential weeds that can be introduced into NSW without risk assessment.
  • An average of 7.5 exotic plant species have established in the wild in NSW each year since colonisation, with the total now at 1665. That rate has increased in recent decades.
  • Many of these new weeds will become the cane toads of the future as they spread into new areas.

Taking action on weeds creates substantial environmental, social and economic advantages. Weed management is one of the biggest gaps in NSW environmental laws and policies.

ISC calls on the NSW Government and all political parties to embrace the recommendations. The changes can be adopted as part of the NSW Noxious Weeds Act.

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