Inquiry into Ecosystem Decline in Victoria

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Invasive species are one of the greatest, if not the greatest, threats to Victoria’s most vulnerable native species.

In 2020 weeds already accounted for a quarter of all plant species found in Victoria, and that number continues to climb.

Pest animals such as foxes, rabbits and feral cats are widespread and others, such as deer and pigs, are expanding their range quickly.

At current rates, invasive species – including pathogens such as phytophthora and myrtle rust – will continue to damage our native species and ecosystems, pushing many further towards extinction.

Our submission to the Victorian Parliament’s Inquiry into Ecosystem Decline in Victoria includes recommendations that would see Victoria make strong progress towards reducing the impacts of invasive species.

Recommendations for legislation, policy, governance and investment

  • Prepare new stand-alone best practice biosecurity management legislation, including the features outlined in our submission on page 9, Legislative solutions.
  • Designate lead responsibility for invasive species issues affecting the natural environment to the Environment Minister and his/her respective department rather than the Agriculture Minister and their department. Refer to Attachment 1 for further detail.
  • Wholly adopt the ‘invasion curve’ approach to invasive species management as the basis of developing appropriate programs for prevention, eradication, containment and asset-based protection. Spread investment across each of these phases with a particularly strong investment in prevention and early action to limit future ‘in perpetuity’ control costs.
  • Assess and identify all risks associated with invasive species is required. For environmental weeds, this would be largely informed by the Advisory List of Environmental Weeds in Victoria. Categorisation in accordance with the invasion curve and appropriate responses to each should follow. Where data gaps are encountered, these should be prioritised for research.
  • Audit all costs associated with invasive species management, particularly those attributable to the natural environment, to provide a base-line from which future budgets can be set.
  • Allocate an increased budget for invasive species, aiming for a measurable reduction in impacts upon Victoria’s ecosystems and threatened species.
  • Direct investment towards invasive species at all stages of the invasion curve, and to all types of invasive species: weeds, pest animals, diseases, pest insects, terrestrial and freshwater.
  • Introduce a monitoring and reporting program that measures against a set of meaningful indicators.
  • Amend the Wildlife Act to exclude the listing of all game species as ‘protected’.
  • Amend the CaLP Act to include the option of listing invasive native flora species.

Recommendations for deer

  • Resource and implement the Victorian Deer Control Strategy.
  • Priorities to implement under the Victorian Deer Control Strategy include:
    • Develop, resource and implement regional deer control plans that align with catchment management authority boundaries and integrate other pest animal control.
    • Designate the highest priority within regional plans to prevention, localised eradication and containment where these gains can be sustained.
    • Remove the regulatory barriers affecting the capacity of public land managers to control deer.
    • Increase penalties for illegal hunting and for the translocation of live deer.
    • Establish a state government Professional and Volunteer Firearms Competency Accreditation and a Peri-urban Firearms Protocol or Code of Practice to improve public safety and encourage humane control.
    • Ensure farmed deer are tagged, fences maintained to standards in accord with the Australian Deer Industry Manual no.2, Planning for Success and review penalties for concompliance.
    • Set evidence-based targets for effective deer control.
    • Allocate adequate recurrent funding to public land managers for pest control operations.
    • Build capacity in the professional pest control sector, including for remote area management and aerial shooting.
    • Expand the engagement of professional and accredited recreational shooters in targeted programs managed by Parks Victoria.
    • Work closely with the national deer coordinator to develop a national deer management plan that integrates with and supports the Victorian Deer Control Strategy.
    • Support research into additional control methods, including the development of genetic and/or biological controls, baiting options, trapping and other remote area control possibilities.
    • Resource an ongoing program to monitor:
      • deer populations and distribution
      • the effectiveness of control and containment measures
      • the costs and impacts of deer populations on the environment, agriculture, the economy and the Victorian community.

Recommendations for feral horses

  • Continue and accelerate feral horse management in the alpine and sub-alpine areas, particularly as the impacts of the recent bushfires are still fresh and ongoing.
  • Utilise aerial and ground shooting professionals trained in RSPCA-approved methods as the primary methods of control.
  • Implement feral horse management in Barmah forest under the Strategic Action Plan, Protection of Floodplain Marshes Barmah National Park and Barmah Forest Ramsar Site 2020–2023, however aim to remove all feral horses during the four-year life of the plan.

Recommendations for smooth newt

  • After confirmation that eradication of the smooth newt remains feasible, eradicate smooth newt colonies from south-eastern Melbourne. If not, contain newt colonies while studies are undertaken to determine the likely environmental impacts of smooth newts.

Recommendations for research

  • Use the assessment of all invasive species (a ‘legislation, policy, governance and investment’ recommendation) to determine data gaps and use invasion curve priorities to inform research designed to address these gaps.
  • Ensure there is long-term budget allocation to fund meaningful invasive species research.

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Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage Area is under threat from deer. The Tasmanian Government knows deer are invading this global treasure but is doing nothing about it.