Our Plan for Biosecurity
It is no surprise that pests and weeds are a major issue in this region; with our warm and wet climate, it is not only native species that love to live here.
Discussions at both regional and local level workshops resulted in broad agreement that pests and weeds are a major problem, affecting a wide range of stakeholders, including conservationists, Traditional Owners, farmers, graziers and government agencies.
While there is already a very long list of pests and weeds in this region, the real worry from the perspective of the experts is the ‘tidal wave’ of invasive species at the doorstep, waiting for the right climatic conditions to move in. ‘Sleeper weeds’ that reside happily in people’s gardens could be the next major threat to our ecosystems and industries.
Now, more than ever, we need to be proactive and focus on prevention and early detection, while not losing sight of the important battles that we have been fighting for some years.
Our Plan for Biosecurity is based on extensive engagement about:
- The challenges preventing us from achieving our Biosecurity Goal
- The opportunities that may assist us in achieving our Biosecurity Goal
- The priority actions that we should put in place to address the challenges and also make the most of the opportunities
1. We will influence policy and planning frameworks to ensure they are evidence-based and focus effort and investment where the best outcome can be achieved.
Challenges: Investment in the control of invasive species at the local, state and national levels can be fragmented, reactive and non-strategic. It does not always take evidence-based, regional prioritisation processes into account and unfortunately a pest or weed species does not enter the political limelight until it is too late.
A focus of prevention and early detection of new weeds and pests and how to tackle them before they become widespread, will be even more critical with the uncertainty around climate change. There is also limited follow-through in enforcing the legal obligations of land managers.
Opportunities: The Wet Tropics region is fortunate to have an enviable number of experts and excellent local and regional plans as the basis for prioritisation. There is quality science on weed spread threat and the probable impacts of climate change to inform policy and planning processes, plus a definite willingness to do so more effectively.
Priority actions focus on science interpretation and communication, harnessing people’s passion and concern about pests and weeds to influence policy makers.
2. We will work collaboratively across properties, communities, industry and government to undertake proactive, targeted, effective and efficient management of invasive species, with a focus on prevention and early intervention.
Challenges: The sheer scale of the pests and weeds in the Wet Tropics can be overwhelming for those involved in its management and this is likely to be compounded by a changing climate.
Fragmented operations, limited coordination and communication, plus the general underutilisation of existing resources (including people and knowledge) are issues that can be addressed through working smarter. Technical expertise is lacking for some species and there is limited knowledge about the characteristics and threat level of new invasive species hovering on the horizon.
Opportunities: With existing networks in place and technical resources available in the region, the Wet Tropics is in a strong position to work smarter, collaborate more effectively and deliver greater bang for its buck. High quality local and regional planning frameworks provide a perfect foundation for prioritisation and then active collaboration. We already have good news stories to tell about achievements to date.
Priority actions focus on strengthening partnerships, fine tuning the prioritisation process to take account of climate change and ensuring the retention of technical skills and knowledge in the region.
3. We will respect and action the desire of Traditional Owners to being meaningfully involved in tackling pest and weeds on their country.
Challenges: The Rainforest Aboriginal People of the Wet Tropics have grave concerns about the threat of pest plants, animals and pathogens (infectious agent) to the health of country. They are also calling for stronger partnerships with community and government, with a particular interest in securing meaningful employment in the management of these threats.
Opportunities: Although in many circles there is interest in engaging meaningfully with Traditional Owners, many people are not aware of the way to go about this and often don’t invest the time and effort to build the relationships that are fundamental to strong partnerships. There are great opportunities to learn from Traditional Owners and to benefit from their experience and knowledge.
Priority actions focus on promoting and communicating cultural values and establishing more effective ways to engage Rainforest Aboriginal People in natural resource management.
4. We will secure sustained, diverse and consistent resourcing for the strategic and targeted management of pests and weeds.
Challenges: With the environment not being a particularly high government investment priority, funding for managing the impact of invasive species is also not a priority. Government funding cycles are often short term and priorities fluctuate, making long-term strategic management challenging. The pests and weeds that get the most attention (e.g. Weeds of National Significance) are often those that are too widespread to effectively contain or eradicate. A new resourcing paradigm is needed.
Opportunities: There is however increasing recognition of the impact of pests and weeds and this creates an opportunity to hopefully secure sustained funding. There are opportunities to capitalise more effectively on the resources we already have.
Priority actions focus on identifying novel funding opportunities and working together to ensure we are making the most out of what we already have.
5. We will work to ensure our community has awareness, capacity, ownership and commitment to fulfil their roles and responsibilities with regard to pest and weed management.
Challenges: Community values differ because one person’s pest is another person’s pet. Absentee landholders make raising awareness of these issues difficult, while favourite garden plants could be ‘sleeper weeds’ on the verge of a transition due to subtle changes in climatic conditions. Nurseries still sell known weeds and at the farm scale, it seems a lack of time, money and motivation can make managing pests and weeds seem just too hard.
Opportunities: Despite this, there is an overwhelming concern in the community about the impact of weeds on our ecosystems and industries and this passion can be harnessed. Information and support services already exist and networks through local government pest management groups provide a great platform to build upon.
Priority actions focus on communication and advocacy, telling the good news stories, and providing the community with realistic pathways to action.