Friends of Grasslands

supporting native grassy ecosystems

PO Box 440
Jamison Centre
Macquarie ACT 2614

email: advocacy@fog.org.au
web: www.fog.org.au

Budget Consultation
Treasury and Economic Development Directorate

Dear Sir/Madam

2016-17 ACT budget consultation

Friends of Grasslands (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 based in Canberra and its members include professional scientists, landowners, land managers and interested members of the public.

FOG has two issues it would like to raise for consideration in the 2016-17 budget – control of weeds and pest animals, and offsets.

Weed and pest animal control

FOG remains concerned about the level of resourcing for weed and pest animal control and the consistency of funding. While FOG acknowledges the resources the government has already put into this area, it is an area that continues to be under-resourced and subject to continuing budget cuts. Weed and pest animal control cannot be done with a “set and forget” mentality. If work is done to control a particular weed or pest animal, it needs to be recognized that follow-up resources and work will be needed into the future to prevent populations continuing to be out of control.

The impacts of pest plants and animals remain the one of the greatest threats to conservation, agricultural productivity and landscape amenity. We do not believe that the recent budget allocations adequately reflect this. We also do not believe that the ACT Government is meeting its commitments under legislation and policy to protect threatened species and communities or biodiversity generally within the reserve system. This lack of commitment has been reported in many instances in the past, including in inquiries by the Commissioner for Environment and Sustainability on the condition of ACT’s nature reserves and on natural temperate grassland.  

We are particularly concerned that existing budgets for pest control are not strategic, in that parts of budgets may be hived off for particular projects, including funding weed control in offset sites. Funding for offsets should be adequate to ensure the general budget is not used for offset work, so that programs for on-going weed control can be effectively planned and implemented.

A particular case in point is that of rabbit control. Resourcing has been provided and work done (both government and extensive volunteer effort) in past years to significantly reduce the rabbit population in Canberra’s reserves. However, this was wound back to practically nothing last year. Given the fertility of the species, the population is now increasing rapidly and will become a problem again quite rapidly. In FOG’s view it makes no sense to put resources into control of a weed or pest species one year, then withdraw funding so that the species can expand unchecked the following year with subsequent control requiring even more resources. It is essential and good economic sense, that consistent funding and effort over long periods be available to keep weed and pest animals in check and in the longer term, reduce the resources required to manage the pest. Maintaining regular follow-up work is far cheaper than funding required for management of out-of-control populations of pests.

Another concern in this area is the lack of resourcing to keep the Weeds Advisory Group active and informed of issues in this area, so that this group can provide effective advice for ongoing strategic management of weeds.

Biodiversity offsets

The number of biodiversity offsets for urban development in the ACT is increasing. FOG has some concerns about management of these offset areas into the future. The new offsets register is helpful in obtaining some information about these offsets, but such information is made available relatively late in the process of managing offsets, deciding maintenance protocols, and so on. This register does not track implementation, nor outcomes. FOG’s view is that a council or committee should be set up to oversee the offsets process. Such a committee should include non-government members with expertise in restoration and management of grassy ecosystems and their component species, and community representation. In addition we urge that budget be made available to assess and report publically on implementation (including resources spent and where these resources come from) and outcomes.

Yours sincerely

 

Sarah Sharp
President

11 October 2015