At recent working bees at the Lookout Flora Reserve and Paringa Nature Reserve in Anglesea, we couldn’t help notice that the environmental weeds, Boneseed and Blue Bell Creeper, which we regularly remove from the reserves, were growing as mature plants in adjoining private gardens.
I think real progress would be made in controlling environmental weeds if regulations prevented individuals keeping or cultivating major noxious weeds of the district. However I cannot visualize the community accepting such a regulatory regime, although it is proposed in a recent discussion paper.
Angair made a submission to the Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI) on its Invasive Species Management Bill Discussion Paper, which was part of the consultative process in developing new Invasive Species Management legislation.
The current Noxious Weed and Pest Animal regulations do not apply to fish and invertebrates. For example it cannot apply to red imported fire ants if they invaded Victoria. The proposed new act would obviate this deficiency, in designating only two categories of pests, and would be simpler than the current act, which has four categories.
Category 1 declarations would include pest plant or animals that are not present in Victoria, not known in Victoria, but if present, can be eradicated, but may have significant effects if left. This category is a preventative strategy to prevent species that are new and emerging high-risk threats from becoming naturalized in Victoria. Category 2 declarations include pest plant and animals that are present in the State, may have significant effects and eradication is not feasible.
Currently the declarations of noxious weeds and pest animals are developed for each Catchment Management Authority. We are within the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority, and our declared lists are different from the other authorities. This is because many invasive species are found only in localised areas, as they have specific habitat and climatic requirements. The discussion paper states, “The new legislation would enable declarations to be made using spatial units that are appropriate to its management”. Unfortunately, this comment is very vague and doesn’t describe how the declarations will be made in practice. I think the declarations of invasive species in Category 2 will be very limited, because the pest plant or animal would need to be a threat across much of Victoria before it is declared.
Also, I believe the DPI has limited resources to regulate the act, so the number of declarations will be limited to prevent them becoming a burden on the bureaucracy. A very good requirement is that the new act would impose obligations applying to species declared in both categories. “Persons must not keep, breed, cultivate, release, display or sell species that have been declared”.
I am also concerned that DPI remains the responsible authority for environmental weeds and pest animal regulations. I believe the Department of Sustainability and Environment and Local Government need responsibilities under the Invasive Species Act, for the regulation of environmental weeds in native vegetation. However it is not feasible to expect that they would achieve much without an injection of suitable funds. Already local governments have a strong interest in environmental weeds, and they have published many educational pamphlets describing the local weeds.
The discussion paper contains an anomaly: species native to Victoria would be excluded from the act. On the Surf Coast this would include Coast Tea-tree, Sallow Wattle and Sweet Pittosporum, which are all species native to Victoria, but are in the top ten major environmental weeds in our district.
We now have to wait for DPI to review comments on the Discussion Paper, and I expect they will develop new legislation for Parliament in the next twelve months.