Weeds and Pest Animals
What are we trying to protect from weed and pest animal threats in the Plan region?
The list of assets in the Plan region is long and assets fall into the categories of natural or environmental; economic and social. The following assets have been identified of particular importance to the members of the technical review panel who developed this plan:
- riparian zones and waterways,
- dry scrubs and semi-evergreen vine thickets,
- the Granite Belt and high altitude refuges,
- the Biodiversity Assets of the Surat Basin,
- areas in the western shires that are relatively weed-free, (particularly parthenium weed),
- good quality agricultural land,
- unique river systems and their associated flora and fauna,
- a network of national parks and reserves,
- extensive tracts of land with high groundcover,
- the Brigalow Belt,
- active regional communities with an interest in Landcare activities, and
- viable industries that can continue to invest in sustainable practice.
As a predominantly regional or rural area, the region supports a number of industries and communities that rely heavily on the natural resource base. Weed and pest animal management is taken seriously and historically there has been significant investment in planning, management and technology. There is a commitment to protecting this level of investment to maintain the sustainability of the region.
What has changed in the area of weed and pest animal management since the last Regional NRM Plan?
The key changes in the area of weed and pest animal management in the region during the past ten years are:
- the legislation that governs weed and pest animal management and the frameworks that enforce it,
- the organisations assuming responsibility for the management of weeds and pest animals,
- the industries in the region that have an impact on weed and pest animal threats,
- a general increase in ‘traffic’ across the region that may be responsible for weed and pest animal spread,
- an increase in awareness of weed spread prevention,
- the biophysical state and condition of the catchments, and
- the technologies available for managing and monitoring weeds and pest animals.
Interestingly what has not changed significantly are the species that are considered threats. Whilst a few emerging threats have been identified (see the condition and trend section), many of the priorities remained the same. Whilst currently the legislation that governs weeds and pest animals is the Land Protection Act 2002 (QDPI), a new legislation, The Biosecurity Act 2014 (QDAFFb), has been drafted and passed and will take effect on July 1, 2016. The aim of the new legislation is to recognise the range of biosecurity threats to Queensland under the one bill and combine a number of existing Acts (QDAFF 2014b). The legislation of 2002 lead to an increased responsibility for local governments in the enforcement and delivery of weed and pest animal management in their areas of jurisdiction. This opened the way for new planning and budgeting requirements. In the past ten years local governments have amalgamated which has in turn created more changes in planning and budgets. There are now six Local Government Authorities who assume control of weed and pest animal management in the Border Rivers and Maranoa-Balonne: Western Downs Regional Council, Maranoa Regional Council, Southern Downs Regional Council, Toowoomba Regional Council, Goondiwindi Regional Council and Balonne Shire Council. Each of these councils has a current pest management plan that guides investment and enforcement.
From an industry perspective, the past 10 years has seen significant expansion of the oil and gas industries in the plan region. Alongside state and local government, agriculture, tourism, transport and service providers the oil and gas companies and contractors are now a major landholder and investor in weed and pest animal management. This also brings increased traffic and infrastructure that may contribute to spread of weeds and pests. In general an increased awareness of weed spread prevention has been observed in the region over the past 10 years.
Another factor contributing to spread of weeds and pest animals observed since the last regional NRM Plan is the pattern of extreme flooding and drought events across both catchments. These extreme weather events have a significant impact on communities and the environment, and also pave the way for highly mobile weed and pest animal species to spread and colonise areas of bare ground. These conditions make management activities difficult, particularly when resources are being directed towards repairing damages as a priority. The climatic conditions experienced in the past ten years are in keeping with climatic variation projections under climate change, and give us an insight into future challenges that we may face in the region.
Finally there have been changes in technology and science pertaining to weed and pest animals that impact on this region. These changes relate to mapping and monitoring, research and access to information, with changes including:
- new mapping tools and technologies are emerging rapidly to allow us to better monitor our pest species, however the challenges associated with this involve the ability and permissions to share data freely,
- a decrease in government investment in weed and pest animal research. This means new science, technologies and techniques will be commercially based and priced into the future, and
- access to information on weed and pest animal management has made the shift from paper-based to online. This creates efficiencies but still creates some holes that need to be filled as well as access issues for those in a “data drought”.
The significant observations of the technical review panel in past ten years include the following:
- increased co-ordination of weed and pest animal control,
- more knowledge available but not necessarily utilised,
- increased industry commitment to weed and pest animal management,
- lots of effort going into management but questionable whether we can measure the impact,
- responsibility shift for managing weeds and pest animals,
- increased movement of vehicles and spreading weeds,
- a change in the type/skill base of staff managing weeds and pest animals within Councils,
- change in land use – resource industry moving into agricultural land, and
- some composition change of species has increased fire risk (increased introduced grass species).