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Weed Control

Question asked in Parliament on Nov 16, 2016

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY ( 15:23 :07 ): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation questions regarding weed control.

Leave granted.

The Hon. J.A. DARLEY: The 2015-16 Adelaide Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resource Management Board Achievement Report outlined a strategy to tackle bridal veil, which is a weed of national significance. Can the minister provide details on the pest plant and weed management programs in each of the NRM regions and can the minister advise what action the NRM can take against landowners who refuse to control their weeds, and advise what action has been taken in the 2015-16 financial year against offending landowners?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 15:24 :04 ): I thank the honourable member for his most important questions. As the Hon. John Darley understands, the highest return on investment in biosecurity is often in prevention. The state government is looking to be much more proactive and declare plants as we review the declared plant schedule. We really want to focus on preventing entry and preventing sale and movement of new weeds which are not widely established already in South Australia.

In the last 10 years, there has been a shift towards landowners, local and regional communities and government working together in partnership around natural resources management. It has been proven that this is a much more effective approach than the previous one, which relied upon enforcement and compliance alone. Bringing communities along with you is always a better way forward.

In 2006-07, the Bureau of Statistics estimated that the annual control cost of weeds to South Australian agriculture was roughly $209 million per annum. Biosecurity SA, in collaboration with the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, is leading a review of state policies on plants declared under the Natural Resources Management Act 2004. This has been the first review, I am advised, of these policies since the early 1990s. The first three phases of the review have been adopted and the final phase of the review has completed public consultation.

Gazetted declarations are required so that natural resources management boards can implement their management plan for each declared plant. Plants must be declared for control under the NRM Act if they pose a threat to primary industry, the natural environment or public safety. A declaration places a legal obligation on landowners to control certain weeds at their own expense. This cost to individuals is justified by the significant benefits flowing to the wider community, with a strong strategic rationale for the imposition of such costs.

The review has been an opportunity to increase the effectiveness of weed management by NRM boards to maximise benefits from investment and weed control by landowners and government agencies and improve consistency in plant declarations at national, state and regional levels. The review has produced recommendations on variations to the declaration of plants, including the addition and removal of some weeds.

Consultation processes have given the public an opportunity to comment on removing some currently declared weeds that no longer pose significant risks or are already widespread and adding some that have significant potential impacts and are more feasible to contain in our state.

All the policy documents, I am advised, have been rewritten to incorporate the current strategic actions of each NRM region and the scientific rationale for the policy. The 145 revised policies in phases 1, 2 and 3 of the review were adopted following public consultation and approval by the eight NRM boards and endorsement by the state NRM council at the time. This included 32 new weeds added, 10 removed and 103 previously declared plants remaining on the schedule with rewritten policies.

Declaration of new weeds provides legislative support for current and future regional strategic weed management plans. NRM regions requested the declaration of gazania, bluebell creeper, arum lily, desert ash and other garden escapees that are recognised as invaders of native vegetation.

Public consultation on the fourth and final phase of the review ran from 6 April to 17 June of this year. This phase addressed declared weeds that posed special interest issues, such as feral olives, willows and branched broomrape, as well as five additional weeds proposed for declaration by NRM boards.

Weeds of national significance are 32 established weeds subject to national strategic plans due to their major economic, environmental and/or social impacts. Targeted strategic investment in managing these weeds will deliver long-term benefits throughout South Australia and the nation. Weeds of national significance species present in South Australia include the spiny opuntioid cacti that invade rangelands, asparagus weeds of bushland, and silverleaf nightshade that impacts on agriculture. All 32 weeds of national significance are now declared under the NRM Act.

Biological control of weeds of national significance has received Australian government funding to support a Meat and Livestock Australia national project spanning three years. The project comprises eight subprojects, five of which address the control of South Australian weeds of national significance, including silverleaf nightshade, cylindropuntia cacti, gorse, blackberry and parkinsonia. PIRSA's NRM biosecurity is leading the silverleaf nightshade subproject, which has been long awaited, I am advised, by many SA farmers. It is partly funded by the South Australian Grains Industry Trust.

Field trials for the management of weeds of national significance species, silverleaf nightshade, are at Keith in the South-East, Crystal Brook in the Mid North, and Cavan and Edinburgh near Adelaide. They are funded by the SA Grains Industry Trust and delivered by Biosecurity SA, in partnership with NRM.

Wheel cactus (Opuntia robusta) became a weed of national significance after nomination by South Australia. The State Opuntioid Cacti Management Plan, which has provided direction for the management of wheel cactus and other opuntioid cacti in South Australia, is now reinforced by a national strategic plan for opuntioid cacti.

In relation to the specific question about penalties, I don't have that information with me but I will take that on notice and bring it back for the honourable member's benefit.


28 March 2017

In reply to the Hon. J.A. DARLEY ( 16 November 2016 ).

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) : I have been advised:

The vast majority of weed infestation issues are resolved without recourse to the law with NRM officers working cooperatively with landholders.

In 2015-16 there were two instances in which it was necessary to invoke the criminal/civil sanctions:

One landowner was convicted of failing to produce an action plan following unsuccessful attempts to have him control a major blackberry infestation and was fined.