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Combating invasive species: Priorities for the next NSW Government

The recent NSW State of the Environment report showed that the health of our state’s environment is in significant decline, and that, like the rest of Australia, we are in the grip of an extinction crisis.

In NSW, invasive species threaten more than 70% of threatened species and endangered ecological communities. Invasive species continue to be the highest impact threat driving declines of our native wildlife and ecosystems, but current policies and resources are failing our environment.

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. A foot and mouth disease outbreak could cost the Australian economy up to $50 billion over 10 years, and the recent varroa mite outbreak has cost at least $500,000 a day to contain and control in NSW.

Frontline invasive species management and biosecurity agencies like National Parks and Local Land Services are understaffed and underfunded. Feral deer are increasing their range by over one million hectares a year and the Snowy Mountains continue to be trashed and trampled by feral horses.

Weedy plants are still sold in nurseries, sensible policies to allow local governments to ensure domestic cats don’t threaten native wildlife are prohibited and our biosecurity system fails to give environmental threats equal weight to industry priorities.

It is clear that we face a crisis and current measures and resources in NSW are insufficient to halt and mitigate the impact of established invasive species and prevent the arrival and spread of new invasive species. In this document we detail priority actions the next NSW government can take that will strengthen the NSW biosecurity system and address priority environmental threats from invasive species.

The Invasive Species Council is calling on the next NSW government to commit to adopt these policies for the sake of our environment.

Invasive species priorities:

1. Invest in new frontline jobs in pest and weed control

1.1 Invest at least $37.5 million/year to secure additional frontline capacity of 300 FTE, comprised of:

  • 110 new pest and weed officers with 10 in each Local Land Services region
  • 120 new dedicated NPWS pest and weeds field officers
  • 50 new local government weed control positions
  • 20 new DPI biosecurity officers

2. Increase First Nations leadership and employment in invasive species management

2.1 Appoint a NSW Indigenous Commissioner for Country to advise on the management of invasive species and their impact on indigenous culture and country.

2.2 Allocate dedicated positions and/or set a minimum proportion target for indigenous employment when recruiting and contracting for invasive species management.

3. Take action to reduce the threat of feral deer and feral pigs

3.1 Employ state deer and pig coordinators who will have responsibility for coordinating cross agency and landholder efforts to implement regional and statewide environmental and agricultural deer and pig control priorities.

3.2 Commission a comprehensive Natural Resources Commission review of ungulate pest animal control in NSW, including control of deer, pigs, horses, goats and camels.

3.3 Provide additional dedicated annual funding of at least $30 million over 4 years to implement the feral deer and feral pig priorities in the regional strategic pest animal plans.

3.4 Commit to a deer exclusion zone in the Northern Rivers and Western NSW regions, including funding to eradicate isolated populations and halt their spread.

3.5 Develop a comprehensive deer containment plan for the Greater Blue Mountains.

3.6 Retain and support the appropriate use of all tools in the tool box for feral animal control, including baiting, ground and aerial shooting.

3.7 Remove barriers preventing professional aerial shooting of pest animals in state forests and ensure sufficient shooter training and positions among NSW government agency staff for deployment across all tenures.

4. Protect the Snowy Mountains – strengthen feral horse control in Kosciuszko National Park

4.1 Repeal the Kosciuszko Wild Horse Heritage Act 2018 and ensure that feral animals are no longer prioritised over native species in a national park.

4.2 Commit at least $30 million over the next 4 years to a restoration fund to repair the mountain catchments and restore eroding slopes, wetlands and mountain streams damaged by feral horses.

4.3 Accelerate the implementation of the current Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan to reach the 3,000 horse target by 2025.

4.4 Urgently expand the areas designated for full eradication of feral horses to include iconic areas like Currango Plains, Snowy Plains and the southern parts of Kosciuszko National Park.

4.5 Overturn the statewide ban on aerial culling of feral horses, a humane and effective control option when using RSPCA-approved protocols.

4.6 Develop eradication plans for other horse populations in protected areas including Barrington, Oxley Wild Rivers, Guy Fawkes, Yuragyir and Torrington national parks.

5. Improve the management of cats to protect wildlife

5.1 Amend the Companion Animals Act to allow local governments to introduce policies for cat containment.

5.2 Provide at least $9 million over four years through a local government grant program to support councils to implement and enforce domestic cat containment.

5.3 Extend funding for and expand the RSPCA-led Keeping Cats Safe at Home program, including subsidised desexing, beyond the program’s current expiry in 2024.

5.4 Introduce mandatory desexing for all cats by 4 months of age and assist local governments to enforce this.

5.5 Commission a Natural Resources Commission review of feral cat management.

5.6 Invest $1.3 million to deploy Felixer cat traps or other appropriate cat control tools.

6. Tackle noxious weeds and prevent the introduction of new weeds

6.1 Ensure weedy plants are no longer sold in nurseries in NSW by:

  • Committing to not purchase weedy plants in all state and local government plant procurement, including for street trees, revegetation and landscaping.
  • Ensuring at least 5,000 plants are assessed for invasive potential under the Gardening Responsibly scheme by the end of 2023 and at least 10,000 are assessed by the end of 2025.
  • Setting a deadline of 2025 for the nursery and garden industry to stop the sale of weedy plants and only sell plants assessed as low invasive risk. If this is not achieved and weedy plants continue to be sold, then switch to a mandatory scheme.
  • Adopting a ‘Permitted List’ approach to plant sale/movement, rather than the current Prohibited List approach.

6.2 Increase funding for the Weeds Action Program to $20 million/year and provide a multi-year budget allocation over the forward estimates instead of the current annual budget decisions.

6.3 Increase investment in the Lord Howe Island Weed Eradication Program by at least $3 million over four years.

6.4 Establish a dedicated High Risk Environmental Pest and Weed Eradication Fund to remove environmental weeds/pest threats that cover small areas of NSW, including sleeper invasives which have potential to expand into large new areas.

7. Strengthen the NSW biosecurity system and ensure environmental priorities are given equal weight to industry priorities

7.1 Create a new statutory, independent Biosecurity Commissioner and associated State Biosecurity Advisory Committee.

7.2 Commission a comprehensive, independent review of the NSW Biosecurity Act 2015 and the implementation of the General Biosecurity Duty.

7.3 Develop an education program to build awareness of the general biosecurity duty and to build support and engagement from landholders in pest and weed management activities.

7.4 Establish an interdepartmental biosecurity agreement between the Department of Regional NSW and the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) to ensure a strong focus on environmental priorities and effective cooperation
between agencies.

7.5 Designate a lead chief environmental biosecurity officer within DPE and give DPE a clear leadership role in the administration of the Biosecurity Act.

7.6 Update the 2015-2021 NSW Invasive Species Plan with a new, more detailed state-wide plan which includes greater consideration of marine and freshwater invasive species.

7.7 Support and fund collaborative national research and innovation into environmental biosecurity such as weed biocontrols, alternatives to 1080, innovative new control options, identification of high-risk fungal pathogens, and improved surveillance and risk identification.

7.8 Support the 2021-2030 Decade of Biosecurity initiative proposed by major national industry, environmental and NRM groups and support increased long-term funding for the implementation of the collaboratively developed national biosecurity strategy.

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Save the Snowies

The NSW government is one step away from allowing aerial control of feral horses in Kosciuszko National Park. This is huge news and a crucial step for our threatened native wildlife and the fragile alpine ecosystems they call home.

Dear Project Team,

[YOUR PERSONALISED MESSAGE WILL APPEAR HERE.] 

I support the amendment to the Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan to allow our incredible National Parks staff to use aerial shooting as one method to rapidly reduce feral horse numbers. I want to see feral horse numbers urgently reduced in order to save the national park and our native wildlife that live there.

The current approach is not solving the problem. Feral horse numbers have rapidly increased in Kosciuszko National Park to around 18,000, a 30% jump in just the past 2 years. With the population so high, thousands of feral horses need to be removed annually to reduce numbers and stop our National Park becoming a horse paddock. Aerial shooting, undertaken humanely and safely by professionals using standard protocols, is the only way this can happen.

The government’s own management plan for feral horses states that ‘if undertaken in accordance with best practice, aerial shooting can have the lowest negative animal welfare impacts of all lethal control methods’.

This humane and effective practice is already used across Australia to manage hundreds of thousands of feral animals like horses, deer, pigs, and goats.

Trapping and rehoming of feral horses has been used in Kosciuszko National Park for well over a decade but has consistently failed to reduce the population, has delayed meaningful action and is expensive. There are too many feral horses in the Alps and not enough demand for rehoming for it to be relied upon for the reduction of the population.

Fertility control as a management tool is only effective for a small, geographically isolated, and accessible population of feral horses where the management outcome sought is to maintain the population at its current size. It is not a viable option to reduce the large and growing feral horse population in the vast and rugged terrain of Kosciuszko National Park.

Feral horses are trashing and trampling our sensitive alpine ecosystems and streams, causing the decline and extinction of native animals. The federal government’s Threatened Species Scientific Committee has stated that feral horses ‘may be the crucial factor that causes final extinction’ for 12 alpine species.

I recognise the sad reality that urgent and humane measures are necessary to urgently remove the horses or they will destroy the Snowies and the native wildlife that call the mountains home. I support a healthy national park where native species like the Corroboree Frog and Mountain Pygmy Possum can thrive.

Kind regards,
[Your name]
[Your email address]
[Your postcode]


Dear Project Team,

[YOUR PERSONALISED MESSAGE WILL APPEAR HERE.] 

I support the amendment to the Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan to allow our incredible National Parks staff to use aerial shooting as one method to rapidly reduce feral horse numbers. I want to see feral horse numbers urgently reduced in order to save the national park and our native wildlife that live there.

The current approach is not solving the problem. Feral horse numbers have rapidly increased in Kosciuszko National Park to around 18,000, a 30% jump in just the past 2 years. With the population so high, thousands of feral horses need to be removed annually to reduce numbers and stop our National Park becoming a horse paddock. Aerial shooting, undertaken humanely and safely by professionals using standard protocols, is the only way this can happen.

The government’s own management plan for feral horses states that ‘if undertaken in accordance with best practice, aerial shooting can have the lowest negative animal welfare impacts of all lethal control methods’.

This humane and effective practice is already used across Australia to manage hundreds of thousands of feral animals like horses, deer, pigs, and goats.

Trapping and rehoming of feral horses has been used in Kosciuszko National Park for well over a decade but has consistently failed to reduce the population, has delayed meaningful action and is expensive. There are too many feral horses in the Alps and not enough demand for rehoming for it to be relied upon for the reduction of the population.

Fertility control as a management tool is only effective for a small, geographically isolated, and accessible population of feral horses where the management outcome sought is to maintain the population at its current size. It is not a viable option to reduce the large and growing feral horse population in the vast and rugged terrain of Kosciuszko National Park.

Feral horses are trashing and trampling our sensitive alpine ecosystems and streams, causing the decline and extinction of native animals. The federal government’s Threatened Species Scientific Committee has stated that feral horses ‘may be the crucial factor that causes final extinction’ for 12 alpine species.

I recognise the sad reality that urgent and humane measures are necessary to urgently remove the horses or they will destroy the Snowies and the native wildlife that call the mountains home. I support a healthy national park where native species like the Corroboree Frog and Mountain Pygmy Possum can thrive.

Kind regards,
[Your name]
[Your email address]
[Your postcode]