Border Ranges protection praised
THE North Coast Environment Council's efforts to save the Border Ranges World Heritage Area from dieback have been praised in Parliament by Lennox Head-based MLC Catherine Cusack.
The council's project focuses on managing lantana, which has led to an explosion in bell minor birds.
The birds are a native species, but the protection offered by lantana allows their populations to boom, changing the insect ecology and that in turn leads to dieback and a breakdown of the natural ecosystem.
Dieback in the Border Ranges is a case study in how a simple weed can rapidly destroy an entire forest, Ms Cusack said.
"Indeed our neighbors in the New England region have experienced devastating loss of native trees due to dieback and the damage is probably irreversible. The North Coast Bell minor program gives hope that our drier forests can be saved from a similar fate," she said.
"Weeds are the number one threat to our natural environment and we need to value and learn from local initiatives - they are the best hope we have of rescuing and maintaining our astonishing natural assets.
"I have called for governments, environmentalists and agricultural interests to work positively and draw inspiration from projects such as the Bell Minor Bird initiative. Weeds are choking our waterways, can rapidly destroy entire ecosystems and are the prime cause of habitat loss on public and private land. Groups used to fighting over environmental issues should work together to secure our biodiversity."
Ms Cusack said state and local road authorities had a key role in managing weeds through by mowing roadsides to control their spread.
A map showing the rapid transmission of weeds around the eastern states was identical to a map of major roads because weeds were spread by cars, trucks and heavy vehicles on long trips.
Ms Cusack also welcomed State Government initiatives to empower Councils to enforce weeds orders, and secure the state's borders by requiring heavy agricultural equipment be washed down before crossing into NSW.
NSW Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson would have extra power to extend those controls to all state borders and other forms of machinery if deemed necessary.
"I am delighted the O'Farrell Government is acting to put in place a holistic framework and new measures to control weeds. It is the first step of what I believe will be a strong reform agenda to fight this number one threat to the viability of agriculture and integrity of our natural environment," Ms Cusack said.