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Recently, Carl Rayner had the good fortune to attend a weed seminar in Warrnambool.

The main speaker was Geoff Carr, from Ecology Australia, who was reporting on a weed study his company had conducted between Warrnambool and Point Fairy. Geoff wrote the seminal paper in Flora of Victoria (1993) on the “Exotic Flora of Victoria and its Impact on Indigenous Biota”, and is recognized as an Australian expert on environmental weeds.

Some of Geoff’s recommendations from the study follow directly on from Carl’s article on Noxious Weed Legislation last month and are as follows-:

  1. Amend Victoria’s Noxious Weed Legislation (Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994) to include all environmental weeds that of concern to land managers of conservation reserves. Currently only a tiny number of these environmental weeds are listed in the legislation. Geoff felt that the procedure to get environmental weeds listed was opaque and overly political. There is competition, between agriculture interests and conservation managers of parks and nature reserves, for scarce funding resources to regulate weeds. Catchment and land protection boards, which are involved in the preparation of the noxious weed lists, seem to have a majority of farmers, and the Noxious Weed Act is regulated by the Department of Primary Industry. As a result, it seems, environmental weeds that are a problem for conservation areas are not listed, and consequently not covered by the noxious weed legislation.
  2. Amend Section 59 of the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994 (Noxious Weed Legislation), because it is a silly anomaly. Section 59 prevents the Minister from recommending an environmental weed to be included in the Noxious Weed list, if it is part of a taxon or community of flora listed under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act. This means that Sweet Pittosporum, Coast Wattle and, I think Coast Tea-tree, which are all species that are part of communities listed under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee legislation, cannot be listed as Noxious Weeds. Yet these are serious environmental weeds along the Surf Coast.
  3. Use legislation to stop residents and governments from growing certain environmental weeds on their land. Eltham Shire Council tried to introduce legislation to prevent growing of certain environmental weeds, but the Nursery Industry conducted a major campaign against the legislation, scaring local residents, that it was the thin edge of the wedge, and it was subsequently removed. It is crazy trying to remove English Ivy from the Dandenong Ranges National Park, when it is growing next door in private property. Many similar examples occur on the Surf Coast Shire but strong political courage would be required to pass such legislation. Currently the alternative strategy – educating of the community to remove environmental weeds from their properties – is not working satisfactorily.

Carl Rayner