White flag waved on invasive weeds

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Sarah IsonBusselton Dunsborough Times

Efforts to control the arum lily and 14 other invasive weed species have been officially abandoned by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development despite strong opposition from South West environmental groups and members of Parliament.

From July, 2015 a periodic review of the State’s pest plants and animals has been examining the status of 44 vertebrate animals and 61 plants and as a result, 15 weed species were revoked from the control category in November. The move signalled an official end to any compliance activities against the weeds, many of which are endemic to the South West, such as the arum lily, blackberry, cape tulip and bridal creeper.

Margaret River environmental group Nature Conservation made a submission to the review and hoped DPIRD would support its control programs alongside its current partners, the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River and the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.

“Support from DPIRD in regard to maintaining the control requirements and undertaking the role of enforcing management would have been beneficial to our program, particularly where there are untreated infestations remaining within large control areas,” executive officer Caroline Hughes said.

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“The option for DPIRD to carry out strategic compliance activities no longer exists.”

Despite support for the department’s continued involvement, DPIRD biosecurity and regulation senior policy officer Andrew Reeves said controlling the listed species was no longer viable.

“It would take hundreds of millions of dollars to control a species like the arum lily ... and there’s no ‘weed police’ out there busting everyone over the spread of weeds on their property,” Mr Reeves said.

“We will aim to target species we can totally eradicate ... and landholders are still allowed to get together or join with community groups and can control these listed weeds on their properties.”

South West MLC and shadow environment minister Steve Thomas said the announcement was an admission of failure by DPIRD, which had gradually reduced action to control weeds since the removal of the Agricultural Protection Board in 1996 and since “push(ed) the responsibility back onto landholders”.

“To announce that it (DPIRD) will no longer be bothered managing 15 weed species is simply the tip of the iceberg that sets the precedent for future reductions in compliance,” he said.

“Let’s acknowledge past failure and then do it differently so that we might actually succeed.”

Busselton Dunsborough Environment Centre acting convenor Alison Cassanet said: “If it comes back on little voluntary environmental groups trying to manage weeds with landowners, it’s not viable.”

“We really need everyone — DPIRD, DBCA, landholders and community groups — to work together,” she said.

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