Chapter 5 - Management of invasive species within Australia
Despite the fact that invasive species are widely regarded as a
major threat to biodiversity, it is relatively rare to find much mention of
them in biodiversity policy documents, except for a focus on a few high profile
species. The 1996 National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia’s
Biological Diversity does cover alien species (at 3.3), but it and other
general policy statements are not well translated into detailed practices.
There are no national invasive species statutory controls.
The Commonwealth's involvement in the management of
established pests is limited to funds delivery for research or specific
on-ground activities, some planning activities under the EPBC Act, and representation
on national consultative committees.
The Commonwealth also has a role in incursion management, when an exotic pest,
disease or weed that is likely to have an impact upon Australia's primary
industries is detected within national quarantine borders for the first time
and has spread beyond the recognised limits of quarantine operations. However, ultimately it is the States
and Territories which have statutory responsibility for managing invasive
species once they are in the country and have cleared the quarantine barrier.
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry's
(DAFF) submission outlined the fundamental position in relation to the
management of invasive species within Australia:
While responsibility for the management of established
pests rests fundamentally with State, Territory and local governments as well
as landholders and industry, the Commonwealth plays a major role in setting the
strategic framework that other stakeholders implement.
In this chapter, the Committee will direct its
attention at the regulation, control and management of invasive species within Australia's
borders, including incursion management. This discussion reviews both State and
Territory and Commonwealth action in regard to invasive species management. A
detailed discussion on border control and importation issues is provided in the
Commonwealth, State and Territory action
The National Weeds Strategy
Having established that it is substantially the States
and Territories which have statutory responsibility for managing invasive
species once they are in the country the Commonwealth plays a strategic role in
developing national strategies and fostering national coordination and
harmonisation which require cooperation from all levels of government. This is
best examined in relation to the national effort to control invasive weeds
through the National Weeds Strategy (NWS).
The National Weeds Strategy (NWS) was launched in June
1997, by three Ministerial Councils; the Agriculture and Resource Management
Council of Australia
and New Zealand,
the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council and the
It was established with the aim of taking a strategic
approach to weed management problems of national significance, and addressing
environmental and agricultural weeds equally. The NWS describes the nature of
the problem, discusses why existing weed management measures are not adequate,
lists the roles and responsibilities of government, community, landowners and
Its three goals are:
To prevent the development of new weed problems;
To reduce the impact of existing weed problems
of national significance; and
To provide the framework and capacity for
ongoing management of weed problems of national significance.
The goals and objectives of the NWS are set out in the
document titled National Weeds Strategy:
A Strategic Approach to Weed Problems of National Significance.
The NWS sets out and categorises roles and assigns
responsibility in the management of invasive weeds as follows:
Role of Individuals and
Individual Landowners and
Land Users Have a Role to:
- understand that
weeds are an important factor in land degradation
- detect and report
new weed occurrences
- understand land
use systems and the cause/effect relationships which apply to weed problems
- apply their
knowledge and sills to improving weed management
economic and environmental values in the management of weed problems on their
- cooperate with
and , where relevant, plan weed management activities jointly with neighbours
- support and
promote sustainable production practices to minimise the development of weed
Communities Have a Role to:
- coordinate local
group development and action on weed problems
- encourage local
involvement in the management of public land
- participate in
local and regional weed management programs
- raise awareness
and improve education on weed issues
Community and Industry
Organisations Have a Role to:
- represent members'
interests on weed issues
- provide their
members with information on weed management issues
- participate in
the development of codes and policies which will reduce the impact of weeds.
Local Governments Have a
- assist with data
collection and information exchange
- assist with the
coordination of community weed management programs
- act as a
community advocate on weed issues
- support the
activities of local self-help groups to undertake weed management activities
- develop and apply
local weed management strategies
statutory responsibilities to encourage responsible weed management
- manage weed
problems on their own land responsibly, in cooperation with other landowners.
State and Territory
Governments Have a Role to:
responsible weed management by:
- providing a
suitable institutional and legislative framework
- developing and
implementing effective policies and programs
positive support through financial incentives and assistance schemes as well as
appropriate standards and regulations
leadership, coordination and resources for research, assessment, advisory
services, education and public awareness programs on weeds
- encourage the
development of effective weed management strategies at local, regional, State
and national levels
cooperation and coordination of weed management at local, regional and State
- manage weed
problems on their own land responsibly, in cooperation with other landowners.
Government Has a Role to:
- manage weed
problems on its own land responsibly, in cooperation with other landowners and
in cooperation with the States to:
- facilitate the
development of an economic, social and cultural framework that encourages weed
management as an integral part of sustainable land management
- provide the
appropriate legislative framework, including quarantine and environmental
legislation, necessary to reduce the impact of weeds
- provide the
mechanism by which weed problems of national significance can be identified and
- develop and
encourage national weed management policies and programs
leadership, coordination and resources for research, assessment, education and
public awareness on weed issues of national significance
- encourage the
development and integration of effective weed management strategies at local,
regional and State and national levels
- develop with
stakeholders a balanced program of incentives, standards and penalties to
ensure effective action to address weed problems.
However, despite this framework the management of
invasive weeds by the States and Territories has been largely in an ad hoc manner due to inconsistencies in
legislation and a lack of political will. In relation to the national effort to
control invasive weeds, the Invasive Species Council expressed its concerns
Ultimately, nation-wide efforts to control invasive species are
substantially hindered by inadequate and inconsistent state legislation. This
is not ‘news’ to anyone working in the area of environmental management. The
National Weeds Strategy identified the fact that “States have not always
harmonised legislation to address situations where a weed in one State can
affect another State or where infestations cross State borders.
The Council of Australian Weed Societies noted that
both legislative and funding arrangements create a fragmented management
approach which leads to greater cross-jurisdictional inconsistency. A lack of legislative synergies is
discussed in Chapter 3.
Weeds of National Significance
The National Weed Strategy provides a national approach
to the management of weeds through the Weeds of National Significance (WONS)
list. As outlined in Chapter 2, the Australian, State and Territory governments
agreed in 1999 to list 20 Weeds of National Significance from some 2,700
non-native naturalised plants identified through a weed risk assessment
process. While many factors were
considered when making decisions on priorities, assessment of WONS was based on
four major criteria:
potential for spread; and
socioeconomic and environmental values.
Five main data sources were used for the Weeds of
National Significance analysis:
an invasiveness and impacts questionnaire was
submitted to three expert panels covering weeds for temperate, sub-tropical and
observed distribution and density for each weed
provided by State and Territory agencies and sourced from the literature. This
data and published literature was used to predict potential distribution of
weeds using climatic modelling;
economic information on the cost of control for
agricultural and forestry weeds provided by State and Territory agencies;
environmental information on the number of
threatened species, communities and IBRA regions provided by State and
Territory agencies and the monoculture potential of a weed from the expert
a qualitative assessment by the expert panels of
social impacts caused by a weed (not examined by other data sources).
A Weed of National Significance status brings a weed
species under national management for the purpose of restricting its spread
and/or eradicating it from parts of Australia.
A central component of the strategy is the identification of Weeds of National
Significance and the resultant coordinated actions across all States and
Territories to ban the sale of WONS nationally. The program has increased
inter-state discussion and coordination on various issues and increased
synergies between agencies for delivery on some species. For example, through
the development of best practice manuals for weeds such as mesquite.
Problems with WONS
However, while the Commonwealth is actively trying to
broker a national approach to the sale of WONS, the continued sale of known
weedy plants in a number of States and Territories continues to undermine weed
To date the program has not achieved the nationwide
prohibition of the sale of the 20 Weeds of National Significance. Only Queensland
and South Australia have acted to
prohibit the sale of all 20 plantsand
five or a quarter of the WONS are still available for sale in one or more
States and Territories. The WWF
stated in its submission that:
Commonwealth investments in the detection and eradication of
serious invasive plant species is being undermined by State noxious weed laws
that enable some of these nationally targeted invasive weeds to be widely
traded by the nursery industry. This is an example of poor coordination between
the Commonwealth and the States, is not cost-effective and is wasting tax payer
The WWF's Andreas
Glanznig added that:
You have the Commonwealth on
the left hand doing good work, but you have the states still contributing to
the problem on the other.
Due to the ease with which seed and plants stock can be
traded, both intra- and interstate, and the proliferation of trade over the
Internet, the failure to impose a national ban on the sale of the plants
compromises the work of states that have bans in place and impedes national
efforts to control weeds of national significance.
Evidence received by the Committee indicated support
for a review of the NWS as it had not been effective in achieving its goals and
objectives. This view was supported by the Council of Australian Weed Societies
which submitted that:
...the strategy needs updating, and legislative arrangement and
funding is needed to enable implementation of the strategy.
The Committee heard that:
At the last meeting of the Australian Weeds Committee they
agreed to recommend for council’s agreement a review of the national weeds
strategy, recognising that there had been significant progress in the existing
strategy, that there was an opportunity and that it was very timely to review
the strategies and the effectiveness of the actions.
Assistant Secretary, Natural Resource Management Policy Branch, Department of Environment
and Heritage, told the Committee that:
There are still such things as sale of banned weeds ... Those
sorts of issues have stimulated the need for both the review of the Weeds
Strategy, how can it be done more effectively and having not a blank sheet but
certainly being open to a range of different options for improving the
robustness of the framework and that coordination.
The Committee was advised that the Commonwealth
Government has not taken a greater role in banning the trade in the 20 Weeds of
National Significance as:
It is important to recognise that in the first instance the
responsibility for sale of these weeds, or for that matter most such products,
is a state responsibility. It is not a Commonwealth responsibility.
The Committee is disappointed at the lack of
cooperation and coordination between the States and Territories to address the
invasive weed problem. The Committee appreciates that achieving the process of
harmonisation and the passage of uniform regulation through six state and two
territory parliaments, without amendment, is no easy task - and takes time. In
relation to the WONS, after seven years that excuse is wearing thin. The WONS
are agreed to be the 20 most problematic weeds in Australia.
They have to be vigorously attacked on a unified basis before the country can
move on to address its next priorities. The national effort to overcome
invasive species is only as strong as the weakest link - and control and
eradication efforts in one region are quickly undone in other regions which
adopt a less aggressive regulatory stance.
The Committee draws the conclusion that weed laws at a
national level are poorly harmonised because of a lack of political will on the
part of the States and Territories. Dr Rachel
McFadyen told the Committee:
Unfortunately, we believe that current controls are not
adequate. I have cited two examples of this. I could cite you plenty more, but
I have simply chosen two. One is Mexican feather grass, Nasella (Stipa)
tenuissima. It is closely related to serrated tussock and Chilean needlegrass.
They are already costing us nearly $60 million a year, and this is a close
relative. They are both major weeds of pastures in the temperate zone of
Mexican feather grass is in fact more drought tolerant than both of those, so
it would be expected to have an even wider climatic range. It was discovered
being sold as a garden ornamental in Victoria
and it was removed from sale in 1998. It was put on the prohibited import list
under AQIS legislation, so import is now banned. It is a declared plant and
therefore banned from sale in four states-South Australia,
Victoria, New South Wales
and Western Australia. However,
it can still be legally sold in the Northern Territory,
the ACT, Tasmania and Queensland.
The Committee supports the efforts of the Commonwealth,
States and Territory Governments to work collaboratively on environmental
issues. However, ultimately, it considers that if consensus and action cannot
be achieved then the Commonwealth needs to have the courage to take a
leadership role and apply legislation that is within its power, in order to
prevent further detrimental impacts by invasive species. As the Committee
Therefore, we believe that there is an urgent need for national
regulations to control the sale of all known weedy species and that this is
quite separate from the controls on importation into Australia.
We believe that relying on the states for action is, quite simply, not working.
If the states cannot get their act together for the 20 weeds on the list-the
request that they forbid the sale of these plants was made in 1999, and we are
now in 2004-the chance of their ever getting their act together for other
plants are very small indeed. The stakes are very high. We cannot afford to
have another branched broom rape or another serrated tussock which will cost us
hundreds of millions of dollars in control and lost production.
The Committee recommends that those States and Territories that
have failed to legislate a prohibition on the Recommendation on the sale of
WONS within their jurisdictions should act to do so as a matter of priority.
While WONS is clearly a step in the right direction,
submitters highlighted a number of other weaknesses in the approach to date. Mr
Tim Low from
the Invasive species council highlighted a range of issues which restricted the
effectiveness of WONS and the management of invasive species generally.
Then you have the spectacular conflicts of interest. Hymenachne
was released in 1988 as a pasture grass. Eleven years later it was declared one
of our weeds of national significance, implying that it was one of our 20 worst
weeds. It took 11 years to go from something that people thought was a good
idea to something that was decided to be a disaster. The national hymenachne
management committee that is meant to control it was set up only two weeks ago.
I am a member of that committee. I am asking the committee: why has it taken
nearly four years to get action on what is a weed of national significance? You
cannot explain it. But it comes back to the lack of funding, bureaucratic
inertia and the fact that farmers want the stuff-and in that time the cost of
eradicating it has probably doubled.
The Nature Conservation Society of South Australia submitted
that there is a need for a nationally integrated and regionally coordinated
approach to WONS.
When controlling invasive plant species an integrated approach
is also important to ensure that one invasive species is not replaced by
another. To a certain extent the Weeds of National Significance (WoNS) program
perpetuates this single species approach. What is missing is the relationship
component between species. The WoNS program also ignores regional priorities.
As most of the Commonwealth money spent on the environment (NHT) is directed
through regional groups there is an apparent inconsistency between these two
Only established weeds can be listed as WONS and this
process excludes emerging and potential invasive weeds. Mr
Executive Officer of South Australia's Animal and Plant Control Commission
raised this issue with the Committee:
The WONS system was based on existing damage caused by a weed,
not projecting a hypothetical damage into the future. So it [Branched Broomrape]
was excluded on those parameters when the original list of 20 weeds was put
The release of the National Weeds Strategy in 1996 did little to
change the on-ground reality of the problem. The recognition of 20 weeds of
national significants in 1999 has targeted some problematic species, but the
influx of potential weeds into Australia
The Committee recommends that the species listed on the WONS list
be reviewed and that other significant threatening species be included as part
of a new national control list of invasive plant species.
The National Weeds Strategy recognised the need to deal
with 'sleepers'. These are cultivated exotic and native plants and minor weeds
which are already in Australia
and which have the potential to become major weeds. The Invasive Species
Even if Australia
closed the door on all new introductions today, our pest numbers would multiply
because many non-native species are already here and are simply awaiting their
chance to escape, or have escaped but only in small numbers. Similarly, some
native species can cause just as much damage as exotic introductions when
translocated beyond their natural range, or when lacking natural limiting
factors.... They are all around us, in our gardens and aviaries, on farms and
plantations, in laboratories and aquaria. Australian weed experts have compiled
a list of 300 sleepers that are likely to become the nation’s next set of
aggressive invaders. This figure is likely to be a gross underestimate.
The WWF argued that there was a lack of adequate
funding for detection and eradication of sleeper species. The Natural Heritage Trust funded a
study to prioritise 'sleeper weeds' for eradication. The Committee was informed
that the findings of this study would be wasted if no funds are made available,
or joint Commonwealth/State funding set in place, for the actual on-ground
eradication of the 10 top-priority weeds.
The Committee heard that government departments lacked
the necessary resources to detect and eradicate small infestations of sleeper
weeds. Despite the fact that return-on-investment models demonstrate that
prevention and early detection are vastly more cost effective than neglect or
late action, resources are more often invested in projects where a clear pest
problem already exists. The Invasive Species Council noted that the National
Weeds Strategy has to date done little to address the issue of sleeper weeds:
Although the National Weeds
Strategy (NWS) acknowledges the need to recognise and eliminate sleepers during
their benign phase, and institute a detection and rapid response program,
authorities have been slow to act. The National Weeds Strategy has to date
focussed most efforts and resources on major widespread weeds (the Weeds of
National Significance), and is only belatedly starting to address high priority
‘sleeper’ and emerging weeds.
Additionally, the 2002 National Weed Experts Meeting
found that there was no clear responsibility for ‘sleeper’ weeds and that no
responsibility exists for national level funding of weeds with purely an
environmental or social impact.
The Committee recommends that The National Weeds Strategy better
clarify responsibility for funding eradication of ‘sleeper weeds’ with purely
an environmental or social impact.
The Committee recommends that investment in early warning systems
needs to increase for the detection and eradication of sleeper weeds.
National Environmental Alert List
The Commonwealth Government has taken action to
identify weeds species that are in the early stages of establishment. The
Department of Environment and Heritage advised that:
During 2000, the Department worked with consultants and technical
experts to identify species to include on a National Environmental Alert List.
The alert list identifies weed species that are in the early stages of
establishment and have the potential to become a significant problem if they
are not managed. This list contains 28 non-native species that are, or are
likely to be, significant threats to biodiversity.
The list contains 28 non-native taxa identified on the
basis of their potential to become threats to biodiversity if they are not
managed. A WWF Australia report, published in August 2004, identified that of
the 28 listed species, 9 were able to be legally imported into Australia.
It identified that 16 species are listed as naturalised garden plants in 1 or
more of the states and territories, and 6 of the species are recorded for sale
in one or more of the states and territories. Of the 16 naturalised garden
plants, 7 are controlled at some level in one or more state or territory.
The Committee is concerned that when the community, who
is being actively encouraged to detect and report infestations of these species
through a ‘hotline’, will increasingly feel disaffection when they realise that
their efforts are undermined when someone can simply go to a local nursery and
buy an Alert List species and then plant it in their garden.
The Queensland Government advised:
The development of this list did not involve the agency in Queensland
with major pest management responsibilities.
Due to the lack of a coordinated consultative process
in the development of the list, the Committee questions the effectiveness of
the list in its ability to achieve its goals. The Queensland Government
identified this as an issue in its submission. It advised:
The current DEH “weed alert list” is not considered by Queensland
to be useful for regional groups, as a number of the species identified by the
state are not of concern to government agencies or the community. Queensland
consider it unlikely therefore those regional groups will apply for funds to
control these species under the new regional funding arrangements.
The Committee acknowledges efforts made to identify and
list species that will have significant impacts if they become established. It
also applauds the work of the CRC for Australian Weed Management for its work
developing Weed Management Guides for all 28 species. However, the Committee
considers that the relevance of the list and the value of the guides are
diminished by the failure of DEH to adequately consult with key stakeholders on
the development of the list, and the absence of a uniform national statutory
framework to control the trade in these species. An absence of political will
and community support has significant negative adversely affects any prospect
of success in managing invasive species.
The Committee recommends that as part of developing a list of
invasive plant species of national importance, the Commonwealth, States and
Territories develop an agreed national Alert List.
In contrast to the national approach to weeds the lack
of authentic national cooperation and action becomes particularly apparent when
looking at the situation in relation to pest animal management, where no
national strategy is yet in place. Yet such a strategy is clearly necessary:
There is considerable variation between states and territories
in policies, legislation and institutional arrangements for the formulation and
delivery of pest animal management. The development of a national pest animal
strategy, similar to the National Weeds Strategy is needed.
As discussed in Chapter 3 the Vertebrate Pests
Committee is a sub-committee of the NRPPC, under the Natural Resource
Management Standing Committee.
While the Committee identifies nationally significant vertebrate pest issues,
recommends appropriate management actions, and develops principles, national
policies, strategies and programs relating to vertebrate pests it does not have a funded
secretariat and therefore is limited in it ability to support nationally
Currently there is no national vertebrate pest
strategy, such as with weeds, however, the Committee heard that a national
strategy to address the impact and management of invasive animal species is
being considered by the Vertebrate Pests Committee.
The current lack of a coordinated national strategy for
vertebrate pests has meant that Commonwealth funds that are provided for
vertebrate pest management programs have not had a nationally agreed strategic
focus or direction. The Queensland Government noted that the National Feral
Animal Control Program (NFACP) was an example of a national program that has
not had a nationally agreed strategic focus or direction. This was highlighted through the
example of Pestplan funding.
For example Pestplan funding from the Commonwealth, developed as
a national model for community engagement in pest planning used in New South [Wales].
The final product is not consistent with Queensland
delivery of pest management at a local government level and so cannot be used
effectively in this state.
The NFACP has been funded by the NHT since 1996. BRS
NFACP is establishing improved control techniques and
institutional frameworks to reduce damage caused by nationally significant
agricultural pests such as rabbits, wild dogs, feral pigs and feral goats, and
will work with relevant agencies to reduce the threat of new pest species
establishing and spreading.
NFACP provides input into a range of national priorities
(including risk assessment for import and keeping of exotic vertebrates, exotic
disease contingency, review of individual species management, national
competency standards and animal welfare) with the overall intention of
achieving greater coordination and uniformity of State agency activity. NFACP
also assists with capacity building at State and regional levels through the
development of a wide range of national ‘best practice’ pest animal management
extension materials which are being promoted through national competency-based
Priorities for project funding under NFACP are identified in the
national pest animal management guidelines produced by BRS. These guidelines
are written by expert task forces and overseen by the National Vertebrate Pests
Committee. Guidelines have been developed for managing feral horses, rabbits,
foxes, feral goats, feral pigs, rodents, carp and wild dogs.
The goal of the program is to develop and implement
coordinated action to reduce damage to the natural environment and primary
production caused by feral animals.
It aims to provide and stimulate investment in integrated,
strategic and innovative management of feral animals.
The Queensland Government submitted that there could be
benefit in the national declaration of invasive pest animals and that national
leadership, with a framework of cooperation with States, may help achieve more
consistent delivery of new vertebrate pest prevention. This could be coordinated within the
structure of a Vertebrate Pests Strategy. Mr
from the Queensland Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy told the
Unfortunately, there is no national plan for, say, vertebrate
pests. So it is going to be very hard under the current funding arrangement to
get strategic actions on vertebrate pests if there is no idea already of what a
strategic action may be because there is no plan for what could happen. We are
a bit concerned that, because we do not have a national vertebrate strategy or
even a bigger national invasive strategy, it would be hard to have those
regional activities being strategic and delivering as well as they can, because
there is no overseeing of that process.
The ACT Government stated that the focus of the
Vertebrate Pests Committee is on the impact of vertebrate pests on rural
production. It proposed a change
in focus to include the impact of invasive vertebrate pests on the environment,
with reference to their impact on native species, as it would be beneficial to
the protection on biodiversity.
However, if the current inconsistencies across
jurisdictions is not resolved, and the States and Territories do not show the
necessary political will to harmonise legislation, the impact of invasive
vertebrate pests will continue to have a devastating impact on both the
environment and biodiversity. The Nature Conservation Society of South
There are currently significant inconsistencies in policies and
legislation between the states. A species identified as a problem in one state
might not be identified as a problem in another state. However as we have seen,
species are able to move around the country via various vectors. This is
particularly important for commercial species. A species that might be banned
in one state can be ordered over the phone or internet from another state. Such
inconsistencies undermine any state measures to limit the movement of species
that have been identified as being invasive.
That the Commonwealth Government place on the agenda of the
Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council, as a matter of urgency, the
issue of progressing development of a National Strategy for Vertebrate Pests.
Nursery and market trade in
The garden sector is the major pathway for new weeds
through the importation and distribution of exotic plant species. Of the over
27,000 introduced plant species in Australia,
25,360 (94%) were intentionally introduced into Australia
as garden or ornamental plants. Of these, over 1,360 (5%) are agricultural,
noxious and natural ecosystem weeds, compromising 70% of all introduced weed
species. Escaped garden plants
also make up the vast majority of new weeds invading the environment. Between
1971 and 1995, 65% of the 295 plant species and sub-species that naturalised in
the environment were intentionally introduced into Australia
as ornamental species.
Many serious invasive plants continue to be
commercially available including one species on the Northern Australian
Quarantine Strategy target list, 6 species on the national Alert List of
Environmental Weeds, and 5 on the Weeds of National Significance list.
The ongoing retail trade in invasive plants is a
complex issue which is controlled through fragmented and inconsistent State and
Territory government legislation. The sale of most potentially invasive plants
is not restricted by any legislation. As the Weeds CRC submitted:
There is no consistent Australia-wide legislation controlling
the trading and planting of listed potentially invasive plants (Randall 2001).
Legislation controlling the sale and use of invasive plants is predominantly a
State responsibility, is inconsistent on a national scale and is limited to
prohibiting the sale and planting of declared noxious weeds. The Weeds CRC and
Nursery Industry Association of Australia have produced lists of potentially
invasive plant species. The sale of these potentially invasive, non-declared
plants, in the nursery and market trade is not restricted by any legislation.
nursery and garden industry is valued at over $5.7 billion (at retail), it
comprises more than 20,000 businesses, and employs over 60,000 people. The industry's peak body, the
Nursery and Garden Industry Australia (NGIA), is working to educate its members
and the wider community in regard to the sale and propagation of weedy plants
(for an example see the brochure entitled: Grow
me instead). However, the association represents less than half of the
industry and has no control over non-members such as large national retail
chains, hardware stores and home prorogation businesses who trade at weekend
markets. Mr Geoffrey
Fuller from the Nursery and Garden Industry
South Australia (NGISA) told the Committee that:
It is the non-members we have problems with. We get a lot of
reports that such and such a supermarket or hardware chain is selling. The
problem we have there is that they are not buying through accredited nurseries.
I do not believe that the accredited or member nurseries-it would be in the
minority-would be growing a problem plant.
The problem we do have is that we might speak to them and say that
such and such is banned in South Australia
or is proclaimed in South Australia
but, because we deal with so many Victorian, New South
Wales and Western Australian nurseries, they could
come over in those shipments. We have no real controls on the border to stop
that because we do not have a weed police officer, so to speak. So they can
come in and go straight to the nurseries or the garden centres that have
The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth, States and Territories
provide funding to enable the Australian Weeds Committee to engage the CRC for
Australian Weed Management to produce a scientifically credible and robust
national list of invasive plant species.
The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth in consultation
with the States and Territories promulgate regulations under section 301A of
the EPBC to prohibit the trade in invasive plant species of national
importance, combined with State and Territory commitment to prohibit these same
species under their respective laws.
Produce a list in legislation of taxa that prevents their sale and
spread for each state or region. Nominations for each taxon on a state or
regional basis can be developed in consultation with natural resource
management agencies, state herbaria and members of the general public.
Once established managing and removing escaped garden
weeds is frequently left to groups of volunteers who give their unpaid time to
address this issue. The Committee heard from a number of these volunteer groups
who argued the need to ban the sale of invasive plants from nurseries.
As a member of a friends group, working with our core of 15
volunteers in a suburban area, we spend our time pulling out invasive weeds.
These weeds have happened here direct from adjacent home gardens. They were
originally purchased from plant nurseries.... Our group firmly believes that
nurseries should not be allowed to sell plants species that are invasive by
The Bend of Islands Conservation Association called for
greater local control over the illegal sale of invasive plants including the
ability of local authorities to declare and enforce locally banned plants. A number of submitters raised the
issue of prosecution and compensation. Ms
Stop commercial nurseries from selling invasive weeds. Farmers
will thank you and the consumers will hardly notice. Educate nurserymen and
household as to what is a weed and issue warnings to remove the weed then fine
and remove if not done. Prosecutions need to be done to make people take the
Similarly, Mr Robert
Fallon argued that there was a need for
greater community and nursery industry awareness with regard to costs of
invasive weed species.
Awareness of the threat posed by weed invasion is still low in
the community. I submit that a nationally based campaign be introduced via
print and television media, promoting awareness amongst nursery owners and
customers of the true cost of the sale of an invasive plant. I further submit
that penalties be considered as a way to support behavioural change amongst the
sellers and buyers of invasive weed species.
Dell, an ecologist, submitted:
Financial gains to the nursery industry from selling
environmental weeds does not justify the acceptance of environmental losses
that we are currently undergoing. There
are also significant financial burdens to all levels of government and the
private sector that can be avoided with minor changes to existing legislation.
The Invasive Species Council submitted:
There is no condition that importers pay for the costs of
control and repair should a plant become a weed. This runs contrary to
“polluter pays” principles which are generally applied to other sectors.
The Committee believes that the financial burden of
managing invasive weeds should be borne by those who are responsible for the
importation and sale of plants known to be weedy.
Investigate the imposition of a 'polluter pays' principle where
importers pay for the cost of control and repair should a plant become a weed.
The Committee heard evidence that self-regulation and
voluntary compliance by the industry has not been successful in reducing the
trade in invasive plants. While there is no effective national post-border
regulatory regime currently in place, a national voluntary measure, a draft Garden Plants Under the Spotlight:
an Australian strategy for invasive garden plants was developed by the CRC
for Weed Management Systems and the Nursery Industry Association of Australia
in the late 1990s. The Strategy states that its program “should result in a
better-informed and educated Australian gardening public, industry and
government, together with an expected reduction in the sale, distribution,
promotion and demand for invasive garden plants in Australia
and increased sales and use of non-invasive plants.”
One element of the Strategy focussed on selecting a
core list of 52 serious invasive garden plant taxa - Garden Thugs - in
consultation with nursery industry associations and working with and educating
the plant industry and horticultural media about these invasive garden plants.
A WWF Australia report assessed the extent to which the
Strategy program achieved 'an expected reduction in the sale' of the 52 garden
thugs. It found that nationally there was absolutely no change in the number of
garden thug taxa available for commercial sale from nurseries from the baseline
year of 1999 to 2002: 22 garden thug taxa were recorded for sale in 1999 and
while there was some turn-over of species, 22 garden thug taxa were recorded
for sale in 2002. The change at a State and Territory level has been variable
with the range of garden thug species available for sale increasing in South
Australia, Western Australia
and the Northern Territory, and
decreasing in New South Wales, Queensland,
Tasmania and Victoria.
Given this evidence, WWF Australia submitted that:
Voluntary approaches to reduce the trade in invasive ornamental
plants have failed both in New Zealand
(where they subsequently introduced statutory controls) and Australia,
where the joint CRC for Weed Management Systems and Nursery Industry
Association of Australia’s Australian Strategy for Invasive Garden Plants has
had no impact in substantially reducing trade in invasive ornamental plants.
In response to this claim Mr
Fuller, Chief Executive Officer, NGISA told
We have recognised the problem. Nothing is going to happen
overnight. The WWF is an organisation that I respect. I have been in the
industry for 30 years and this is the first time that I know of that it has
made a comment against the industry. I have no problems with that. But I think
where they are getting their facts from needs to be looked at. I reject that
notion. We have been responsible; we are working towards it. There is certainly
still an enormous amount of work to go, but we are looking at it.
suggested the need for a nationally consistent and coordinated listing of
Regarding the WWF comments, we have looked at it very seriously
because it is affecting our industry. We get a lot of feedback. The gardening
shows and the radio programs are very responsible in what they are doing; they
have made a lot of people aware of what is invasive. They love to tell you what
is wrong. We look at that; we take it very seriously. But the list side of this
requires a national coordinated approach that sets guidelines on what is an
invasive and what is not, and how that is looked at. We do not need something
frivolous put on it for no reason; we need a list that is serious and can be
A number of witnesses acknowledged the possible need
for regulations. Dr Lonsdale,
Assistant Chief, CSIRO Entomology, told the Committee that:
We can try and win hearts and minds, but in the end it is
possible that the only solution will be regulation.
The Committee heard that one of the difficulties in
regulating nursery industry is that it is not a unified industry. Dr
Assistant Chief, CSIRO Entomology, told the Committee of the difficulties
encountered in attempting to self-regulate the ornamental plant industry in the
have made some good progress in working with the ornamentals industry to
self-regulate, and the industry is very nervous about regulation, but the
reality is ... it is just not sufficient. In the end, it is a very disorganised
industry with a lot of small players. It is very hard to actually get them all
to sign up to some sort of self-regulatory mechanism.
WWF Australia advocates increased regulations to
control the trade of invasive species, and to prohibit the sale of invasive
species of national importance such as those on the WONS list. Mr
Glanznig told the Committee that:
... there are well-documented examples where one pot plant has led
to a new invasive plant being taken from an area where it is not invasive to an
area where it is invasive and then escaping
into the environment. That very much underscores the reason why we are calling
for national regulation. You need a level playing field to ensure that
nurseries doing the right thing by not selling invasive plants of national
importance are not going to be disadvantaged by the nursery down the road
thinking that they have a comparative advantage by still selling these nasty
The Committee was told that most operators were not
members of the Nursery and Garden Industry Association and therefore voluntary
codes of conduct are very difficult to apply allowing:
... a lot of the operators are mums and dads-small-time operators.
They do not have the administrative machinery in place to ensure due diligence.
You would get a lot of breakdown with any national voluntary approach. In fact,
there is the failure of, say, the previous national approach, which was ‘garden
thugs’, to make any significant dent on stopping the sale of the 52 ‘garden
WWF Australia argued that the dispersed nature of the
industry, comprising of numerous small family operations, means that:
From a policy point of view, that really leads you down an
education and regulation approach. In Australia,
I know the previous CRC worked up a draft strategy to undertake a voluntary
approach, but from what I can see, it has had very little impact on restricting
or reducing the sale of invasive garden plants.
The Committee acknowledges that the Nursery and Garden
Industry (NGIA) has invested considerable resources in educating its members
and non-members. The Committee applauds the NGIA development of voluntary lists
and publications such as Grow Me Instead
which recommends alternatives to native and non-native invasive plants.
However, it is recognised that non-members jeopardise the NGIA's efforts. Mr
Fuller told the Committee that:
We have got a huge education process happening in our nurseries,
particularly the wholesale nurseries, of growing. While we can control our
industry and put submissions to the nurseries who are members and to
responsible nurseries, our problem is that our industry is also a cottage
industry-Paddy’s Market, the council markets and the whole lot-and this is
where we get what we call the garden escapes.
The NGIA argued that any endeavour to place a blanket
ban on plants could have significant consequences and therefore plants should
be assessed on an individual basis.
If we go ahead and do the carte blanche banning of plants, then
we have got a problem in our industry. It is one where we have got to go
through it, plant by plant, and work out just how invasive it is, in which area
it is invasive and in which states it is a problem. It is not going to be a
The Weed Management Society of South Australia took a
stronger view on this issue to argue that:
A proactive approach with the garden industry to remove
invasive, unproclaimed garden plants from sale needs to be funded and enforced.
Evidence overwhelming demonstrates that there is broad
community support for measures to restrict the sale of invasive plants by the
nursery industry. There is also consensus that self-regulation is not
While, as discussed in chapter 2, responsibility for
management of the environment primarily rests with the States and Territories
and therefore enforcement aspects are mostly a State and Territory responsibility,
the Commonwealth has a critical role to play in establishing uniform national
regulatory frameworks. A good example in this regard is the Commonwealth’s role
in fostering a national regulatory framework for the management of threatened
The Committee considers that the NGIA should continue
its education efforts and seek financial assistance through the NHT to assist
it in its endeavours.
Mandatory labelling of plants to educate consumers
about the invasive qualities of invasive plants has been proposed.
One is trying to prohibit the supply of the worst invasive
species in Australia.
The other is trying to reduce the demand for other species through an
education-that is, mandatory labelling-approach. That has worked in a number of
other areas. The Commonwealth and states and territories have developed
mandatory labelling schemes for energy efficiency and water efficiency and we
are saying that this is a fantastic candidate for the next cab off the rank.
The Committee notes the limited success of voluntary
labelling schemes for water efficiency, and the rationale for the subsequent
introduction of a mandatory labelling scheme:
A voluntary water efficiency labelling scheme has been in
existance sine 1988...The coverage of the existing program is limited. Because
the scheme is voluntary, few suppliers have chosen to label, and those that
have tend to label only there better performing products - for obvious reasons.
Consequently, despite being a comparative
labelling program it has developed some of the attributes of an endorsement label, which assists water
utilities and their customers to identify models for rebate purposes, rather
than as a purely comparative label, which encourages and enables buyers to
compare the water efficiency of different models.
Notwithstanding the expense associated with such an
activity the Committee considers that there would be benefit in such actions as
they would raise awareness and educate consumers of the characteristics of the
species and also encourage shifts in purchasing patterns away from invasive
plant species to the many that are benign. There are also strong precedents of
inclusion of useful consumer information on products for health reasons,
ranging from information on cigarettes to the composition of foods, including
Additionally, the Committee encourages the NGIA to take
a leadership role in raising awareness. It encourages members of the industry
to seek assistance in raising awareness.
The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth, States and
Territories, the NGIA and other stakeholders, including conservation NGOs,
establish a process under the proposed National Weeds Action Plan to examine
the merits of a mandatory labelling scheme on invasive garden plants.
The Committee recommends that the nursery and gardening industry
give consideration to labelling of all invasive plants which, while able to be
sold legally, may have invasive characteristics and should be managed
The Committee heard that the trade in invasive weedy
species is encouraged and promoted by popular gardening and lifestyle
television programs. Ms Renae
Irresponsible media representation should be controlled and
regulated. The February 1999 issue of Burke’s
Backyard magazine recommended one of Australia’s
worst environmental weeds, blue thunbergia (‘blue trumpet vine’), as a great
climber to grow in northern regions. In fact, this rampant forest-invader has
been banned as noxious by the northern shires of Hinchinbrook, Cook, Cardwell, Douglas,
Johnstone and Mulgrave, making it illegal to grow across much of north Queensland.
Other serious weeds encouraged by the magazine include Spanish lavender -
declared noxious in most of Victoria; and the
Western Australian bluebell creeper (Sollya heterophylla) - which happens to be
the most invasive weed in Arthurs Seat
State Park near Melbourne. The
magazine does put in the occasional warning: a January 1999 article promoting
gloriosa lily (Gloriosa superba) warned of its weediness in north Queensland,
but failed to explain that it is even more invasive in southern Queensland
and northern New South Wales.
Similarly, Dr Rachel
McFadyen from the CRC for Australian Weed
Management told the Committee that:
In the March issue of Gardening Australia, which is a generally
responsible gardening magazine widely sold throughout supermarkets, Mexican
feather grass and two other weedy grasses were promoted as suitable plants for
a water-saving, prairie style garden. The magazine quoted four nurseries in New
South Wales and Victoria
as possible sources for the plants. I do not mean by that that they are sources
for Mexican feather grass. The article had a picture of the garden, gave the
name of Mexican feather grass-Stipa
tenuissima-among other plants and gave four nurseries where you could
The Committee considers that every effort should be
made by the media to ensure that it is providing correct information.
Gardening and lifestyle programs should be required to include
warnings about the appropriateness of the plants suggested on there shows. Such
warnings could require an indication of the country of origin of the plant, the
areas it is indigenous to, and whether it has proven invasive elsewhere.
Holistic response plans
Due to the often conflicting economic, environmental
and social impacts of invasive species, it is essential that plans for the
management of invasive species are holistic and look at the interactions of
introduced and native species before action is taken.
Every action has a reaction and the Committee heard evidence
that the interaction of pest animals, such as fox-rabbit-cat interactions need
to be understood if they are to be effectively managed. Dr
CEO, Pest Animal Control CRC, told the Committee that:
That [the interaction of pest animals] is very important,
because if you knocked out foxes, cats come up and they do not prey on the same
species, so you need to understand the ecosystem effects.
A project to restore habitat and reintroduce native
species, called Operation Bounceback, has been conducted in South
Australia since 1992. It is an ecological restoration
program in the Gammon and Flinders Ranges
National Parks. Operation
Bounceback is working towards the restoration of ecosystems to protect native
species and to reintroduce some native species. The project has not focussed on
addressing single species problems but taken a landscape scale approach to
management and considered all elements of the ecosystem.
The goal of the program has been to link integrated feral animal
control to natural recovery processes, weed control and strategic revegetation
and fauna recovery initiatives. 
The success of the program can be seen through the
recovery of Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby populations, dramatic reductions in
introduced animals and the return of native perennial grasses. Mr
told the Committee that the reintroduction of the Yellow-footed Rock-wallaby
one of only nine percent of reintroduction projects for
macropods on the mainland which would be regarded as being successful, and it
is being used as a model for other such projects.
A case study on Project Eden, a commendable initiative
by the State Government of Western Australia, is detailed below.
Case Study: Project Eden
is an arid-zone conservation program set in the Peron
Peninsula of the Francois
Peron National Park,
which is part of the Shark Bay World Heritage Area in Western
Australia. It is a project of the Western Australian
Department of Conservation and Land Management (CALM).
The intention of the project is
to reconstruct and rejuvenate the ecosystem, by reintroducing endangered
wildlife, to the 1050 square kilometre Peron
Peninsula. This area has suffered
predation by foxes and cats and competition from introduced grazing animals
such as rabbits, goats and sheep. While Peron's journals and
other historical relics suggest that, despite its harsh and arid climate, the
area had supported over 20 species of land mammals, within 200 years less than
a third of these species could still be found inhabiting the degraded
The groundwork for Project Eden,
which officially commenced in 1995, was the purchase in 1990 of the Peron
pastoral station by CALM. Within five years, more than 15000 sheep and 11000
feral goats were removed, principally using mustering supplemented with aerial
and shooting programs.
A 3.4 kilometre fence has been
constructed to keep out feral animals. In its first stage, the project involved
the use of many diverse and inventive techniques, including baiting with 1080
(monofluoroacetate). By the end of 2001, foxes had all but been eradicated and
around 70 per cent of feral cats had been removed. Difficulties with the
willingness of feral cats to take the dried baits containing 1080 led to the
development of innovative lures using sound and smell. These cats are providing
CALM with a database of biological information, which will be an invaluable aid
to research into the lifestyle and behaviours of the feral cat.
The second stage is aimed at
re-establishing, through re-introductions, long term viable populations of
species lost from Peron. Woylies, bilbies and malleefowl have
already been released while species such as the red-tailed phascogale, rufous
hare-wallaby, western barred bandicoot and chuditch may soon be reintroduced.
The Western Australian Government
is to be commended for its efforts to reverse the long process of ecological
destruction and to seek to return the Peron
Peninsula to a more natural state.
Much will depend on the extent to which the habitats recover, but the key is
that a determined start has been made.
As noted above, the Commonwealth's role in relation to
invasive species within Australia
is ubiquitous, although its involvement is closely tied to the States' and
Territories' primary responsibility for land management matters within their
respective jurisdictions. It provides national leadership, for example in
relation to WONS. It is involved in incursion management. It administers the
bioconservation aspects of the EPBC Act. It provides funding for research and
specific on-ground activities, and convenes national consultative committees.
It is also responsible for management of Commonwealth lands, including national
parks. In the sections that follow, the Committee examines each of these roles.
Environment Protection and
Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC)
As discussed in Chapter 2 the EPBC Act administer by
the Department of Environment and Heritage, is the key Commonwealth legislation
dealing with the conservation of biodiversity by providing protection for:
listed species and communities in Commonwealth
areas (this includes listed threatened species and ecological communities,
listed migratory species and listed marine species);
cetaceans (all whales, dolphins and porpoises)
in Commonwealth waters and outside Australian waters;
protected species in the Territories of
Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Coral Sea Islands; and
protected areas (World Heritage properties;
Ramsar wetlands; Biosphere reserves; Commonwealth reserves; and conservation
wildlife species and wildlife products subject
to international trade.
The Act provides for:
the identification of key threatening processes;
the protection of critical habitat;
wildlife conservation plans;
the issuing of conservation orders and
the regulation of exports and imports of live
animals and plants, wildlife specimens, and products made or derived from
The EPBC Act essentially comprises two parts:
a process for assessing proposed ‘actions’;
biodiversity conservation through listing
endangered species and communities.
DEH told the Committee that:
The two key elements [of the Environment Protection and
Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999] relevant to invasives are that the
legislation allows for the identification and listing of key threatening
processes and, should the minister consider it appropriate, the development of
a threat abatement plan. The second part of the legislation’s most relevant
provisions in relation to invasives concerns import controls, which allow for
the assessment of plants or animals to be imported into Australia
and placed on two schedules.
However, the Invasive Species Council stressed in its
The damage to biodiversity brought about by invasive species is
not expressly acknowledged as a matter of national environmental significance
within the EPBC Act. Under the current EPBC Act, the Commonwealth has
restricted its own ability to assertively take on an effective regulatory role
in the control and management of invasive species.
Identification and listing of key
The EPBC Act deals with biodiversity conservation
principally through listing endangered species and communities. Recovery and
threat abatement plans and management plans for those species listed as
endangered fall under this part of the EPBC Act. DEH submitted:
The current EPBC Act arrangements concerning the development of
national threat abatement plans are adequate and effective in developing the
initial framework for identifying the range of research, education and
on-ground control activities required to manage a national key threatening
process. The EPBC Act requires that each national threat abatement plan must be
reviewed within five years.
Section 183 of the EPBC Act allows the Minister to
publish a list of key threatening processes. A process is defined as a
threatening process if it threatens, or may threaten, the survival, abundance
or evolutionary development of a native species or ecological community. A
threatening process could be treated as a key threatening process if it has an
adverse impact on a native species or ecological community listed as a
threatened species or ecological community.
Submitters were critical that listing only occurs when
a species is close to extinction and when action to reverse this may be costly
or ineffective. For example:
In doing so, however, its provisions to “protect native species”
are only concerned with being able to “prevent the extinction, and promote the
recovery, of threatened species”. Once again, the main focus is on remnant
populations and the final extinction events. The long-term processes that have
led to species rarity and vulnerability in the first place are given “no
The Invasive Species Council submitted:
In other words, it is only when the threatening process puts at
risk the very existence of a threatened species or ecological community will
the process be recognised as a ‘key threatening process’ warranting specific
action. The Minister has listed the following ‘key threatening processes’
relating to invasive species:
- Competition and land degradation by feral Goats
- Competition and land degradation by feral Rabbits
- Dieback caused by the root-rot fungus (Phytophthora cinnamomi)
- Predation by feral Cats
- Predation by the European Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)
- Predation, Habitat Degradation, Competition and disease transmission by
- The reduction in biodiversity of Australian native fauna and flora due
to the red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta).
All but two of the existing listed key threatening
processes have approved threat abatement plans in place. The Committee believes
that this approach is limited as overwhelmingly the evidence to this inquiry
argues the need for early intervention in addressing invasive species or
Under this process the Minister must decide whether a
‘threat abatement plan’ should be made within 90 days of the listing of a key
threatening process. However, section 270B(6) provides that the Minister must
not make a threat abatement plan for a key threatening process which occurs
wholly or partly outside a Commonwealth area unless the Minister can be satisfied
that it is reasonably practical to make the plan jointly with each of the
States and self-governing Territories in which the process occurs within 3
years of deciding to develop such a plan.
This issue of lack of jurisdictional coordination was raised by a number of
Even if, by some stroke of luck, the Minister chose to adopt a
threat abatement plan to address growing destruction caused by invasive
species, there would still be a significant problem: threat abatement plans
only bind the Commonwealth and Commonwealth agencies - States and Territories
are not necessarily bound to co-operate.
The lengthy timeframes associated with listing and plan
approval was seen to undermine the effectiveness of the threat abatement plans
(TAP). The Queensland Government contended that:
The primary tool for co-ordinated action on environmental pests
by DEH is the threat abatement planning process provided under the EPBC Act.
The existing TAP framework may have limited capacity to assist in co-ordinated
action for the early eradication of a pest such as the Fire Ant. In theory a
TAP could have been used to establish a plan for the eradication effort agreed
by funding partners. However, the capacity to co-ordinate quick action for this
type of species is crucial to any attempt at eradication. The statutory
timeframes associated with listing and approval of such a plan, are unworkable
in these circumstances.
The World Conservation Union (IUCN) contended that
there is a continuing lack of political will to act in a timely manner on TAP
and recovery plan processes:
In 1996, the Spotted Handfish became the first marine fish to be
listed as endangered by the Commonwealth, following its listing under Tasmanian
Fisheries legislation the year before. In the same year, it was listed as
Critically Endangered by IUCN. It is found in only three small colonies of less
than 200 adult fish each....
Ms Milne (from IUCN) has called on the new federal Environment
Minister, Hon. Ian Campbell to release a five-year Recovery Plan and allocate
adequate funding to conduct the research, toxicity trials, survey work and
public awareness needed to secure the species. The 2002-2006 Spotted Handfish
Recovery Plan has been with the Commonwealth for the past two years but has yet
to be implemented.
Similarly, the Committee was informed that at a State
and Territory level, government action in regard to identified threatening
process is also protracted.
state and territory statutory and administrative arrangements are failing to
address the threat posed by invasive species. Greater political commitment to
the principles of weed related policy and legislation is required. For example,
the invasion by P.undulatum into
habitats outside its natural range in Victoria
was listed as a ‘potentially threatening process’ in 1994 under Schedule 3 of
the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988. An Action Statement has not
yet been developed for this listing, despite the legislative requirement that
this occurs as soon as possible after the listing process.
Current funding arrangements were seen as a barrier to
the effectiveness of TAP in managing invasive species. Dr Cas Vanderwoude, a
technical advisor to the Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG) of the World
Conservation Union (IUCN), submitted that while regional approaches to managing
invasive species are highly effective the current funding arrangements for TAP
makes a regional approach difficult:
Any threat abatement plan for invasive species should start at
regional levels as this is a sound method of moving risk off-shore. Current
Australian legislation does not consider this strategy and as a result there is
no funding mechanism through which planning and implementation of regional
plans for preventing incursions of Red Imported Fire Ants and other invasive
ant species can be implemented.
Similarly, the Queensland Government argued:
Treat Abatement Plans (TAPS) under the EPBC Act provide a
national plan, however they are often not fully implemented. It is our
perception under current Commonwealth resourcing it is likely that the
development of more TAPS may result in less money for the implementation of
current TAPS. Therefore if more funds are not assigned for national invasive
species management less activity is likely on these species.
CSIRO submitted that the current Act had the potential
to deal with invasive species but that regulations under the Act had not as yet
The Act certainly provides for regulations to control invasive
species, but it appears not yet to have been invoked to this end. The potential
for development of regulations under the Act should be explored. It is also not
clear whether the EPBC Act provides for dealing with potential threats such as
invasive species that have not yet arrived in Australia,
as opposed to more immediate threats.
In the Committee's view the Government is not using the
TAP process in a timely manner nor adequately funding the process to address
the issues of invasive species.
The Committee recommends that the Threat Abatement Process (TAP)
be reviewed to enable threatening processes to be listed prior to threatened
species reaching a critical stage.
Section 301A of the Environment
Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 allows for the control of
non-native species through the listing, prohibition of importation and
prohibition of trade in members of a species included in the list.
The regulations may:
(a) provide for the establishment and maintenance of a list of
species, other than native species, whose members:
- do or may threaten biodiversity in the
Australian jurisdiction; or
- would be likely to threaten biodiversity in the
Australian jurisdiction if they were brought into the Australian jurisdiction;
(b) regulate or prohibit the bringing into the Australian
jurisdiction of members of a species included in the list mentioned in
paragraph (a); and
(c) regulate or prohibit trade in members of a species included
in the list mentioned in paragraph (a):
- between Australia and another country; or
- between 2 States; or
- between 2 Territories; or
- between a State and a Territory; or
- by a constitutional corporation; and
(d) regulate and prohibit actions:
- involving or affecting members of a species
included in the list mentioned in paragraph (a); and
- whose regulation or prohibition is appropriate
and adapted to give effect to Australia's obligations under an agreement with
one or more other countries; and
(e) provide for the making and implementation of plans to
reduce, eliminate or prevent the impacts of members of species included in the
list mentioned in paragraph (a) on biodiversity in the Australian jurisdiction.
The Invasive Species Council outlined the regulations
under section 301A:
In relation to biodiversity conservation, section 301A gives the
Commonwealth the potential to address the issue of species “other than native
species” which do or may threaten biodiversity in Australia or which would be
likely to threaten biodiversity in Australia if brought into Australia. Section
301A provides that the Regulations may provide not only for the establishment
and maintenance of a list of such non-native species, but that the Regulations
could provide for the regulation or prohibition of the importation into
Australia of such listed non-native species and even the regulation and
prohibition of the trade in such species not only internationally but within
and between the States and Territories.
discussed earlier in this chapter, the Committee heard a substantial amount of
evidence which was critical of the on-going trade in invasive weed species
between States and Territories. The provision of s301A would allow the
Commonwealth to regulate and control this trade. However, the Committee heard that
the Commonwealth Government had not utilised the available provisions under
section 301A to manage the importation, transportation and sale of known
invasive species. The Queensland
has not formally requested the Commonwealth to use Section 301, although its
possible use has been raised by Queensland
and other States but rejected by the Commonwealth in officer to officer
the Queensland Farmers Federation also questioned the apparent reluctance to
use existing powers under Section 301A under the EPBC Act:
Is the Bill necessary
when a current provision of the EPBC Act, section 301A, which provides for
regulations to control non-native invasive species and would deliver similar
outcomes as the Bill, is not being utilised?
Commonwealth Government's hesitancy to implementing section 301A to ban the
trade in invasive species appears to be driven by concerns over funding
responsibility and cost of monitoring and compliance. DEH's Dr Rhondda Dickson
told the Committee:
its report titled, Invasive Plants of
National Importance and their Legal Status by State and Territory, WWF
Australia stated that there is:
Section 301A, if the government chose to, could be used
to ban the trade of a list of species that would have to be established under
the act. That is one of the options that could be looked at in the reviews of
the national framework. It is a matter of looking at which is the most
cost-effective and efficient way of doing things.... We need to consider the
considerable cost as well of monitoring the compliance with any regulations
that may be set up under the EPBC Act. So, in considering the various options,
a key issue is the most effective way of doing things....
The responsibility for compliance and monitoring then
would fall to the Australian government. It has also been looked at under the
intergovernmental agreement on marine pests and is one of the options for how
you might effectively have coordinated state and territory action. But, again,
I think it is something that the Australian government needs to work through
with the states-to decide whether that is the most efficient option or whether
working cooperatively, with the states fulfilling their commitments, might be
another way. All these things are open for discussion, but certainly that is
one of the options we would be looking at.
strong evidence of the need for national controls, under the
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, 1999, to prohibit the
sale of invasive plants of national importance. Without such regulations,
efforts by the NRM Ministerial Council and the Primary Industries Ministerial
Council to establish "a national framework for preventative action"
will be severely compromised.
Committee strongly urges the Commonwealth Government to pursue its
environmental obligation in regard to invasive species and to continue
discussions with the States and Territories to better utilise section 301A of
the EPBC Act.
Funding for management
Commonwealth provides funds for specific on-the-ground management of invasives
species through the NHT. Mr Murnane
of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry said:
the Natural Heritage Trust is essentially a funding program for
on-ground environmental works rather than being specifically designed to
support research, but there is scope to support particular projects that may
have an applied result later on.
It was submitted that the Commonwealth is under-funding
invasive species management in Australia:
The level of national investment to abate the invasive species
threat is grossly inadequate relative to current and projected costs. Although
there are no estimates of aggregate national expenditure, the Federal
government only spends about $3 million per annum on weed control. The Federal
government of the USA
invests over a billion dollars per year on invasive species prevention and
Similarly, Dr Barry
Traill of the Invasive Council told the
I have an overarching comment which goes to funding. I am sure
that as professional politicians you hear ‘more money’ all the time. But this
is a case where there are demonstrated benefits from acting early and quickly.
The recent paper by the weed CRC ... really emphasised the economic cost. That is
just the economic cost; if we had the resources we could do a similar paper on
the environmental cost, which you cannot quantify in terms of a billions of
dollars figure but you could quantify in terms of hectares of habitat lost or
species lost and so forth, which would be equally scary. Money spent on
eradication saves our economy, saves our environment and is an investment that
works. It is not a drip-feed forever if we are talking about eradicating new
Inadequate funding and poor on the ground coordination
were raised as major weaknesses in the development of a coordinated national
approach to weed management. The CRC for Weed Management told the Committee
The National Weed Strategy and the focus on the 20 Weeds of
National Significance (WONS) is an excellent initiative of this Government but
needs better on-ground coordination and continuity. For example, the agreed
National Management Strategy (2001) for pond apple, one of the WONS that is
rapidly invading swampy areas of far north Queensland,
calls for its eradication over a 20 year period. Yet virtually no Commonwealth
funds were allocated for pond apple control or management during 2001 or 2002,
and as a result its spread is continuing unchecked except where some locally
funded groups are functioning. It is still not clear whether funding for
management of the WONS will continue after 2004, and there are no alternative
sources of Commonwealth funds available for management of environmental weeds.
Money for management of the 20 WONS is also allocated to Regional Bodies or
community groups on a short-term basis (maximum 3 years) and this does not
promote long-term nationally coordinated action to manage even the most serious
The CSIRO argued that funding for the management of
invasive species is inadequate and that this issue is compounded by the fact
that funds delivery via the Natural Heritage Trust (NHT), under the first phase
(1996/7 - 2001/02), was generally provided year-to-year or for 18 months at a
time, which did not allow for long term strategic control measures to be
McFadyen argued that funding for the Weeds
of National Significance program was also negatively effected by the
year-by-year or 18 month Natural Heritage Trust funding cycle:
It is completely ineffective for any strategic work whatsoever.
Take, for example, the issue I mentioned of the mimosa pigra outbreak in Queensland.
If that is to be effectively managed, money has to be put into it now and kept
going for the next five years and possibly 10 years. The WONS system, with
year-by-year funding, simply does not allow that. It is not about a
year-by-year review; no-one would have a problem with that. It is about
committing the funds for five years, even if they are reviewed every year.
The Committee heard that WONS has been funded for three
to four years at about $20 million in total-a million dollars per weed and that
the funding is fairly static and often poorly directed. This arrangement
appears to narrow the focus and effectiveness of WONS and less populated States
claim to have been disadvantaged. Mr Noel
Richards from the Weed Management Society of
South Australia argued that WONS:
... has been concentrated in higher population states, as you
might expect. But the weed problems are no less severe here. Of course, WONS
are limited to those species. Natural Heritage Trust funding, for example, must
be addressing WONS or the Commonwealth government’s environmental alert list
species. So it is quite limited in its focus. Whilst there are a number of WONS
species that are an issue here, there are many others that are not WONS that
are major issues.
Similarly, the State Council of Rural Lands Protection
Board submitted that:
Commonwealth funding for feral animal management and control
administered through the Bureau of Rural Sciences has significantly declined
over the past few years, with the exception of the $1 million Pest Animal
Management Grant Program announced as part of the Commonwealth Government’s
drought assistance contribution in November 2002. Today more than ever, funds
need to be made available to assist in coordinated control efforts and to
further refine and develop pest and feral animal control techniques.
The Committee heard that strategic approaches to
invasive management are hampered by jurisdictional conflict over forward
commitments for funding. And that,
as discussed in Chapter 3, current NHT funding arrangements through regional
authorities encourages a focus on widespread established weeds which have
already damaged the environment and for which eradication cannot be achieved. Mr
highlighted the problem associated with decentralising funding to regions which
fragments possible responses to national problems:
One of the problems that have been identified for me through the
hymenachne management group is that they have been told that to get funding to
control hymenachne they are supposed to go through the NRMs, the regional
groups. This is not an appropriate process for a national weed. It depends on
those groups deciding that that particular weed is a priority for them, and you
are going to get an uneven approach. This is not consistent. If you are saying
that this is a national weed, it needs a national response; but then you
decentralise the funding.
Funding for research
Commonwealth funding for research is delivered through
funded research institutions such as CSIRO. These research institutions are
increasingly being required to seek co-investment from external investment to
match core funding. The Committee heard that over the past decade funding to
research institutions has been steadily decreasing and is extremely inadequate.
Despite the huge economic and environmental costs of invasive
species, several reviews (including the national State of the Environment report)
highlight the grossly inadequate funding being invested in preventing and
controlling invasive species problems. In particular, far more committed
funding is required for eradication of serious sleeper weed and feral pest
species, and committed long term funding (at least 10 years) for the
development of new integrated biocontrols for additional serious widespread
The short term nature of research funding cycles was
raised as a significant issue. A number of witnesses argued that short funding
cycles disallowed the development of new research projects. Dr
told the Committee:
This is quite a new area of research. We are looking at
potential biological control. We have also considered the option of genetic
control of this species [Northern Pacific Sea Star]. At the moment long-term
funding has been rather restricted for management and control, so we have not
progressed that very far.
Similarly the Committee heard:
The other thing with these short-term funding arrangements is
that it is a bit difficult to start a totally new program in biocontrol. It
works well in a sense when we are in the delivery phase and engaging the
community, but to really start from scratch you would at least need a
three-year block to have an idea, for example of surveying and the initial
testing and that sort of thing.
The detrimental effect of short term funding cycles was
raised by Dr Louise Morin from the CSIRO who argued that research could become
fragment and did not represent value for money as short term funding cycles
disallowed the consolidation of work previously completed:
it has been a challenge every year. To make a proper plan of,
say, delivery over three years would be so much more efficient than every year
having to rewrite the grant. What I find is that for the same amount of money
that we get over the three years we deliver much less because it is so
from the Pest Animal Control CRC told the Committee that:
It is almost a study in worst practice research funding. I have
done 10 years of research management. No-one funds for one year on long-term
projects except EA [Environment Australia]. I do not have any other clients
that do that. If that could be fixed, that would be a major step forward in
terms of saying, ‘These are the important projects. We are going to go. Foxes
are not going to go away next year. We need to do some national research.’ Then
you get buy-in from the states to join the effort.
advised the Committee of the effects of short turnaround time for applying for
For example, two tenders were let
on Christmas Eve last year for a mid-January date for feral goat research. You
read that and think, ‘What are they thinking?’
A number of witnesses highlighted that the lack of
commitment to long-term funding has a detrimental impact on the ability to
attract research students, resulting in a higher staff turn over. The need to
encourage and maintain a pool of researcher working on the preservation of Australia's
cultural and environmental heritage was highlighted by Mr
McAlister who told the Committee that:
Having post-graduate students and post-doctoral fellows employed
by the appropriate C.R.C.’s to undertake both applied and, what is
euphemistically called, “blue-sky” research is of paramount importance.
The Committee heard evidence that due to its unique
does not have much in common with the rest of the world in relation to invasive
species R&D and therefore must develop its own pool of expert knowledge and
possible solutions to indigenous problems. Dr
Peacock told the Committee that:
a common problem exists, such as wild horses in the United States, the approach is significantly different that we are unlikely
to get any solutions to our problems without doing a lot of work ourselves.
The Committee believes that research programs should be
adequately funded and co-ordinated on at least a three-year cycle; and that
greater support should be provided for research into pests that have not yet
That the Commonwealth Government provide certainty of funding to
research institutions, such as CSIRO and CRCs, to enable them to undertake
long-term research projects.
While incursion management involves a range of
jurisdictional issues, it is clear that a pest incursion arises from a failure
of border control, a matter of clear Commonwealth responsibility. DAFF has
developed arrangements in conjunction with state/territory and industry
stakeholders to manage pest and disease incursions that have the potential to
impact on Australia's
primary industries. It stressed, importantly, that these arrangements are
intended to provide for early and decisive intervention. DAFF provided the
Committee with a series of four diagrams which outlined the management roles
and responsibilities at a policy, operational and research level in regard to
pest animals, pest plants, marine pests and weeds. These useful overviews are
at Appendix 4.
At an operational level, the arrangements are largely
directed at supporting national policy councils and advisory committees which:
...function to ensure there is a coherent, consistent and
concerted national approach to the management of those invasive pests and
diseases that have the potential to prejudice the competitiveness and
sustainability of Australia's
agriculture, fisheries and forestry industries.
Funding of emergency responses is critical. As DAFF
pointed out: 'The cost of managing exotic pest species can be many millions of
dollars and this can escalate rapidly if decisive intervention is delayed'. Mr
Willcocks from the Department of
Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry told the Committee that:
the Commonwealth and the states do have early response
arrangements in place for at least three weeds to do exactly what you are
talking about, to move quickly to eradicate-for kochia, Siam weed and branched
broomrape. Those programs are currently going on, certainly for Siam
weed and branched broomrape.... So there is another source of funding that was
agreed between the Commonwealth and states for dealing with those sorts of
Similarly, Mr Roger
Wickes, from the Animal and Plant Control
Commission told the Committee that both the Commonwealth and States have
provided funds for pest incursions:
The Commonwealth and the states have responded and have put
funding on the table. They have made us jump through a lot of hoops, but then I
think that is important-because it is a lot of money-in working out where you
invest your money and why you should be doing that. Yes, the Commonwealth
responded quite well. We had to round up a few states towards the end, but the
Commonwealth were beside us all the way. We have funding from the Grains
Research and Development Corporation. The Commonwealth government helped us
very much in discussing with industry their funding contribution. I think if
any issue is being sorted through at the moment it is the industry’s response
when these incursions happen. I think the state and Commonwealth governments
are responding quite well.
The following is a case study of the effective
eradication of a particularly unwanted incursion - the Red Imported Fire Ant.
Case study: Cost sharing arrangements in the eradication of Fire Ants
On 6 April 2004, the Committee visited
the Wacol facility of the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and
Fisheries for a comprehensive briefing on the National Fire Ant Eradication
Program. The visit was undertaken with the approval of the Hon Henry Palaszczuk
MP, Queensland Minister for Primary Industries and Rural Communities.
The Committee was hosted by Mr
Director of the Fire Ant Control Centre (FACC) and several of the centre's
researchers. The group was joined by Mr Ron
Beck, Acting Deputy Director-General,
Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries. The visit consisted of oral
presentations supported by reference to a series of slides, followed by a
Q&A session, and concluded with an inspection tour of the research
McCubbin briefed the Committee about all
aspects of the Red Imported Fire Ant, including their potentially disastrous
social and economic impacts if not eradicated. The fire ant is a native of South
America, is extremely aggressive and, when disturbed, attacks en
masse. It inflicts a fiery sting that will develop into a pustule. In the United
States, fire ants have caused over 90 deaths
and thousands have been hospitalised with allergic reactions. They prevent
children from playing safely in their backyards, they can kill young animals,
and impact on agricultural production.
A Benefit Cost Analysis (BCA)
undertaken by the Australian Bureau of Resource Economics (ABARE) into the
proposed eradication program estimated that the cost to the Australian economy
over the next 30 years if the fire ant was not controlled would be $8.9
billion, especially in relation to negative impacts on tourism and property
values. As such, the ant, if not contained, had the potential to be Australia's
biggest environmental disaster. The ABARE analysis was based on an eradication
program of $123.4 million over five years, providing a BCA of 25:1. This ratio
is well above the limit where eradication is considered worthwhile, yet was
considered conservative as it had not costed the loss of environment and lifestyle
values that the ant would cause.
A key aspect of Mr
McCubbin's presentation was the description
of the governmental response once the ants had been discovered. The timetable
2001 - identification (although it was believed that they could have been
in the country for up to five years before discovery)
- March 2001 - emergency response phase, including the introduction of
movement controls under the Plant
Protection Act 1989.
- August 2001 - scoping phase, including the completion of a Social Impact
2001 - commencement of $123.4 million, 5-year eradication program.
In February 2001 the Queensland
Department of Primary Industries (as it was then called) raised an emergency
response, having concluded that the pest needed controlling, based on its
history as a serious pest of agriculture in North America.
The initial emergency response involved several supporting agencies, including
the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy and the Environment Protection
Agency. A Queensland Government interdepartmental working group was established
in the scoping phase to provide whole-of-government service support.
scientists briefed meetings of Commonwealth and State/Territory agricultural
agencies in Brisbane
in June 2001, and three options were considered:
containment, focusing on pest suppression to minimise its impact; and
management - as undertaken in Texas. Under this approach, the Government
adopts the role of providing advice on management options based an
government-funded research, but efforts to further control (but not
eradicate) are funded by individuals and businesses.
An urgent response to the
incursion was considered extremely important. Eradication was agreed as the
preferred option, given the opinion of fire ant experts that it was technically
feasible and the most cost effective. The US
scientists advised that natural spread by winged queen ants would re-commence
with the onset of warmer weather and a delay of months in the commencement of
the campaign would result in the area of infestation extending out by two or
three kilometres. Failure to commence treatments in the spring of 2001 would
have effectively doubled the estimated cost of treatment for the first year and
significantly reduced the chance of successful eradication.
Following the scoping phase, a
National Fire Ant Eradication Program was put together with nationally cost
shared funding, with QDPI as the lead agency. The then Standing Committee on
Agriculture and Resource Management (SCARM) endorsed this option, and referred
it to the Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New
Zealand (ARMCANZ) for a decision on budget support for a $123.4 million program
over five years. This was given in principle support on 20 July 2001. The overall budget was
subsequently increased to $144.9 million in May 2002 to cater for an expanded
area as a result of further surveillance, better delimiting the spread.
Because the impacts were recognised
to include a potential impact on agriculture beyond the borders of any one
State, existing national cost sharing principles were used. These arrangements
- first established by the then Australian Agricultural Council in February
1977 - see the costs of approved eradication measures being shared on a 50:50
basis between the Commonwealth and the States, with the sharing of the States'
contribution being assessed on the size of the industry at risk in each State.
In the case of the fire ant program, all States contribute on a
per-capita basis recognising the impact would be on the entire community, not
just agriculture or a specific industry. Thus NSW and Victoria
make a greater contribution than Queensland,
despite the outbreak being contained within Queensland.
The Natural Resource Management
Ministerial Council now has oversight of the program. On 16 April 2004, shortly after the Committee's
visit, Mr Palaszczuk
announced that the Queensland Government had secured in principle agreement for
an extra $37.5 million for the fire ant eradication campaign. On the basis
that the extra funding was contingent on individual government budgetary
considerations, aggregate funding would total some $175.4 million over six
years. By the end of June 2004, some $109.6 million
had been expended.
Failure to secure national
funding for the eradication program would have placed the Queensland Government
under pressure to implement an ongoing facilitative management program to
assist industry and the community to manage the pest. The cost of such a
program was estimated at $2 million annually, depending on the level of
'subsidisation' of control activities undertaken by industry and the community.
A 2002 study by Moloney and
Vanderwoude found that if the fire ant had been allowed to spread throughout Australia
unimpeded, it would occupy any land with mean annual rainfall exceeding 510 mm,
excepting areas that experience extremes of cold. Predictive modelling of the
expected rate of spread showed that at least 600,000 square kilometres and as
much as four million square kilometres could be infested by 2035.
the National Red Imported Fire Ant Surveillance Program has been implemented,
focusing on active surveillance of high-risk sites such as ports and airports.
The Program is coordinated in Canberra
through the Office of the Chief Plant Protection Officer. States and
Territories are required to report their activities through this office.
McCubbin advised the Committee that the
first three years of the Program had been spent treating known infestations,
detecting any new or previously unknown infestations, and minimising the risk
of spread to new areas. The final two years (now extended to three) will be
spent monitoring the treated areas and eradicating any remaining small
infestations. The emphasis will be placed on locating and eliminating the last
nest. It was estimated that 97.5% of properties in the defined treatment zones
were clear and, apart from continuing physical checks by the on-the-ground surveillance
workforce of some 400 personnel, techniques based on multi-spectoral imaging
and the like are also being employed. Modelling of fire ant habitat preferences
using satellite imagery has been used to identify areas of land which are
unsuitable for fire ants, identifying some 13000 hectares (or half the current
surveillance area) not needing FACC attention, at a saving of some $4 million
This case study is one of the
most impressive examples of what can be achieved when any part of Australia
is confronted with a potentially massive ecological and economic threat. It is
a remarkable example of intra- and intergovernmental cooperation, demonstrating
the effectiveness of the cooperative federalist system when it is confronted
with a sufficiently massive threat. In response to questions from Committee
members about any concerns he had held with the process, Mr
McCubbin spoke of the early period of
uncertainty while funding approval was awaited, especially while awaiting
confirmation of the financial involvement of the other States. DPI had seen the
need to take the lead but there was a reluctance to push too far ahead without
guaranteed funding. He noted that there was also some element of 'Russian
Roulette' in trying to recruit a large number of personnel in a hurry before
funding was assured. He also emphasised the need to recruit good staff, which
again limits the speed with which such programs can move from the planning to
Committee member was presented with a comprehensive publicity pack about the
fire ant threat and the details of the eradication program, containing
brochures, fridge magnets, and identification charts. These had been given wide
distribution around residents of the affected areas. The success of the program
demonstrates the benefits of quick action at a governmental level, supplemented
with community education and involvement.
Committee wishes to express its appreciation to Mr
Palaszczuk for agreeing to allow the
Committee to visit the Wacol facility and to Mr
McCubbin and his dedicated team of staff for
their hosting of the Committee and their comprehensive and informative
There are a number of common principles in responding
to any invasive species regardless of taxon (plant or animal) and these can be
applied to assessing the cost-benefit and feasibility of response, particularly
once the quarantine barrier has been crossed.
In South Australia the Animal and
Plant Control Commission has developed the follow protocol to manage incursions.
The Commission has developed an Incursion Management Protocol to
ensure that South Australia has
appropriate measures in place to minimise the adverse effects of future
incursions of exotic plant and vertebrate animals into South
In preparation for, or in the event of an incursion, South
Australia will have in place measures that:
- identify the strategies and actions to be adopted in the event of an
- define the roles and responsibilities of personnel responding to an
exotic vertebrate animal or plant incursion;
- outline operational procedures and plans to evaluate and co-ordinate
- ensure rapid and effective decision making on what specific actions
should be taken to manage an incursion;
- provide clear documentation and relevant contact details.
Provide administrative arrangements that will:
- ensure integration and co-operation between the Protocol and other
national and state plans and strategies;
- provide appropriate public information and education;
- identify arrangements to ensure on-going management of incursions;
define arrangements to ensure effective implementation and review of the
The Commission submitted that:
Responses to incursions of new pests are often expensive and can
be difficult to negotiate, as they require a funding commitment that often
extends beyond several electoral cycles. However, the cost of eradicating a
pest before it becomes widely established offers significant potential
long-term savings. Cost-sharing arrangements and responsibilities between the
Commonwealth, states and other stakeholders for incursion management should be
clarified and standardised.
The need for the Commonwealth Government to take a
significant role in the management of pest incursions was raised by the Tasmanian
Government which submitted:
The Tasmanian Government considers that some pest incursions
represent such a threat to Australia's
natural heritage that they must be addressed at the national level. The
processes exist to allow this to occur but I do not believe that the Australian
government has accepted an appropriate share of the burden of incursion
management in such matters of national importance.
The Nature Conservation Society of South Australia also
It is recommended that the Commonwealth accept responsibility
for the coordination of a rapid response program. Such a program would require
a comprehensive database of the location of existing invasive species, and a
network of people in the field who are able to receive rapid support for
eradicating any new incursions. Such a program could utilise many of the
volunteer and existing paid staff currently spending much of their time in the
Plant Health Australia
submitted that as a result of the absence of an agreed national emergency plan
for exotic plant pests the organisation had begun negotiation with key
stakeholder to develop an endorsed emergency response plan:
Plant Health Australia
is currently negotiating new cost sharing agreements for the emergency
eradication of exotic plant pests. These arrangements will replace the current
cost-sharing arrangements between the Commonwealth, state and territory
governments and will include cost sharing measures with related plant
In June 2004 Plant Health Australia
launched PLANTPLAN Australia's first national emergency preparedness and
response guidelines for the plant industry. In a media release Mr
the PHA Chairman said:
PLANTPLAN is a significant milestone which will introduce far
greater coordination and consistency in plant pest responses. By adopting
common and enhanced emergency response procedures, government, industry and
individual producers will benefit from more rapid, consistent and efficient
responses to harmful pest incursions.
The new Australian plan outlines the approach to responding to
emergency plant pest incursions. The emergency response procedures, roles and
responsibilities, and decision making processes described in PLANTPLAN are
generic for all plant pest emergencies, and are triggered by detection of an
emergency plant pest.
PLANTPLAN provides a description of the general procedures,
management structure and information flow system for the handling of emergency
plant pest incursions at the national, state/territory and district levels. This
includes the operations of control centres, principles for the chain of
responsibility, functions of sections within control centres, and role
The Committee is reassured at the adequacy of the
emergency arrangements for dealing with incursions that might adversely affect
primary industries. It notes, however, that incursions of an environmental
impact seem to have slipped through the cracks. Timely action against
environmental pest incursions is equally important.
recommends that the Commonwealth place on the agenda of the Natural Resource
Management Ministerial Council the need for parallel arrangements to be
implemented for environmental pest incursions as are currently in place for
threats to primary industries.
Some of the evidence to this inquiry suggests a lack of
cross agency coordination in the management of invasive species. Mr
Tim Low from
the Invasive Species Council told the Committee that:
You find that noone has a whole picture of this. There is no
institution, expert or authority you can go to and ask: ‘What are all our
exotic pests? What exotic insects do we have?’ No body is vested with the
responsibility for having that information and documenting that. You can certainly
find experts on weeds, but it is all compartmentalised, so there are always
other pests that noone seems to know about.
However, government agencies are now working in a
greater coordinated manner to address the issue of invasives. At a federal
level DAFF works with a range of key stakeholders including other government
agencies and industry in relation to the regulation, control and management of
invasive species. By way of example, DAFF submitted that:
In addition to the close working relationship developed with
DEH, DAFF consults with and coordinates its activities with other government
agencies in including the Australian Customs Service, the Departments of Health
and Ageing (DH&A), Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs
(DIMIA), Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Transport and Regional Services
(DOTARS), Defence and Australia Post on quarantine issues.
The key agencies engaged in incursion management include DFAT,
(in relation to any potential trade implications), DH&A (in relation to any
potential public health dimensions) and the Department of Finance (in relation
to funding the Commonwealth’s contribution). In the management of invasive
marine pests DAFF is extensively involved with both DOTARS and the Australian
Maritime Safety Authority at a policy level. Depending on the nature of the
incident, the Navy, Customs, the Australian Fisheries Management Authority and
DIMIA may also be involved at an operational level.
In South Australia,
the Animal and Plant Control Commission is looking at a more integrated and
holistic approach to pest management:
The Commission recognises that anything to do with pest
management goes hand in hand with protecting agriculture, protecting the
environment and public safety. At the moment we are looking at bringing animal
and plant control issues in with other integrated natural resource management
issues. Before parliament at the moment we have a bill which will bring animal
and plant control, soil conservation and water resources into an integrated framework
for South Australia, because you
cannot deal with one of these issues without dealing with the others.
The Queensland Department of Natural Resources, Mines
and Energy told the Committee that despite the size and diversity of the State,
the department actively works in partnership with a range of stakeholders to
address weed and pest management in a coordinated way.
McAlister also raised the issue of the need
for greater coordination between research bodies:
I suggested that the pest animal
CRC work more closely with the weed management CRC, perhaps the tropical
ecology CRC and maybe the one that is working with fire. Those are areas which
seem to work together to me. If there were some way in which they could
communicate more effectively, then it would be something that would be well
worth our while.
Governments as neighbours
The Committee heard from many farmers who claimed that
Federal, State and Local governments were negligent neighbours in the control
of invasive weeds on Crown or public land. Mrs
Denise and Mr
Many Farmers have worked diligently to combat feral animals and
noxious weeds however fireweed presents an enormous threat to the agricultural
viability of the area. Fireweed is in the National Parks, on Crown
Land and has infested land of
absentee landlords.... We have witnessed a negligent attitude towards the problem
at the Federal, State and Local Government levels.... The State Government has
not acknowledged the problem and the roadside remains a constant source of
The issue of negligent neighbours, whose poorly
maintained land is responsible for the spread of noxious weeds, raises the
issue of liability. As Mrs Phillipa
I wish to bring to your attention the increasing possibility that
someone will ultimately take another land holder or land manager to court for
the costs incurred to them in the control or eradication of invasive weed
species. The precedent is the success of fire damages claims, and it will soon
become apparent that the costs of weeds, in control/eradication, along with the
loss of pasture/native bushland, are probably considerably greater than those
In response to claims that governments are poor land
managers in regard to invasive species, Mr
Con Boekel from
the Parks Australia South Branch of the Department of Environment and Heritage
told the Committee:
In relation to Commonwealth reserves I would make quite a strong
claim that we are very responsible landowners and land managers.... Where we can,
we seek to cooperate with neighbouring communities. We have not been successful
with the cane toad, but I would say that in most of the areas that I am
personally aware of the level of weed control and the level of pest control of
things like foxes and rats are at least equal to or better than what is
happening on the other side of the fence from us.
The Committee believes that the management, funding,
community understanding and political will to address the issue of invasive
species already within Australia
is fragmented and insufficient. Mr Edward
McAlister, AO, the Chief Executive of the
Royal Zoological Society of South Australia captured both the scale of the
problem and the hope that it is not beyond us:
The problem seems immense and there is certainly no “silver
bullet” for all, or perhaps even any, of these pest species, either animal or
plant.... Accepting that the problem is immense and certainly widespread, there
appears to be a number of things which can be done.
The Committee acknowledges that the Commonwealth has
little direct control over the management of established pest species, however
it believes that the problem is so significant that greater Commonwealth
leadership and State and Territory partnerships are required. Programs should be
outcome-based, they should be strategic, long-term and adequately funded:
All invasive species programs need to be considered at the
landscape or ecosystem level and should be outcome based. This is important for
all invasive species- flora and fauna. Simply removing one invasive species may
not achieve a positive outcome for biodiversity if the controlled species is
replaced by another invasive species. Therefore an integrated approach that
addresses all invasive species is needed.
While in chapter 7 the Committee finds against the
introduction of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation
Amendment (Invasive Species) Bill 2002 at this time, essentially because of the
compact between the Commonwealth and State governments on environmental regulation
as reflected in the Principal Act, the Committee calls on the several tiers of
Government to address the implementation of section 301A, perhaps in a staged
approach. Further recommendations will be made in Chapter 8.