Friends of Grasslands
supporting native grassy ecosystems
PO Box 987
Civic Square ACT 2608
Ms Marion Bennett
Branch Support Officer
Industry & Investment NSW
Locked Bag 21
ORANGE NSW 2800
Dear Ms Bennett
Noxious Weeds Act 1993: Statutory Review Issues Paper
FOG is a community group dedicated to the conservation of natural temperate grassy ecosystems in south-eastern Australia. FOG advocates, educates and advises on matters to do with the conservation of grassy ecosystems, and carries out surveys and other on-ground work. FOG is involved in weed control in a number of natural temperate grasslands and grassy woodland sites, in both the ACT and the surrounding area of New South Wales (e.g. Cooma). FOG is based in Canberra and its more than 200 members include professional scientists, landowners, land managers and interested members of the public.
FOG welcomes the review of this Act and supports a number of the proposed changes. In particular, FOG sees the introduction of a permitted list approach in NSW to be a useful step in preventing the spread of new weeds into high conservation areas. When it is possible to predict a plant’s likely invasiveness from its biology, taking a proactive approach by excluding potential weeds from New South Wales is much preferable to reacting once the plant has become a weed (with the consequential negative impact on conservation areas and the resources needed to maintain their quality).
In this regard, we suggest that a key reform would be provision for public nominations of species to be listed as weeds to an independent scientific assessment committee. This committee would then recommend to the Minister whether or not the species should be proscribed, and, if so, how. Weeds so listed should be put into categories such as:
- eradicate – “incursion management”
- control – legal obligation on landowners to remove, banned from ownership and sale
- contain – banned from sale or use by public authorities
- in commercial use (e.g. olives, pinus) – with the onus on plantation owners to contain the species.
In fact, over time all exotic plants in NSW should be assessed and categorised in this way, which would aid in preventing new weeds from escaping beyond control, and move the focus from a reactive approach after a plant has become weedy to a proactive approach that prevents further impacts on both agriculture and biodiversity.
Since some of weed incursions come from institutions such as botanic gardens and agriculture research station, these institutions should be obliged to retrospectively assess their collections for weediness using the AQIS Weed Risk Assessment procedure, to identify and remove or control problem species.
Other proposals that FOG supports include the proposal to delegate class 4 notifications to Local Control Authorities, and that to include in the Act specific provisions for the management of conflict species. There are numerous examples of planted commercial species such as pines spreading into neighbouring conservation areas, and any step towards managing these plantings to reduce their impact on conservation areas is an improvement.
We also support any actions that would require a land seller to notify the intending purchaser of weed issues and to alert the buyer to be aware of weed management matters. This might be linked to public education campaigns to make landowners and potential buyers aware of the need to be aware of weed management responsibilities. While weed monitoring is a requirement of the Act and is undertaken by local weed officers, it would also be very useful to have regular independently prepared reports on how well each weed species is being managed. The results of this work might help both education and weed management strategies.
Finally, we support the proposal to require public authorities to have the same responsibilities for high priority species (classes 1 and 2) as private landholders. Again, there are numerous examples of such weeds spreading from public lands or from easements within reserves, and having a significant impact on conservation areas.
Third party enforcement provisions through the Land and Environment Court should be added to enable public enforcement where other intuitions fail to act.
26 January 2011