After three-and-a-half years of planning, the Flinders Shire Council is about to launch a program it hopes will change the face of its war against Prickly Acacia.
Called the Good Neighbour Program, it aims to enlist landholders in a herbicidal border patrol that leaves them free to manage infestations inside that boundary as they see fit.
Deputy mayor Ninian Stewart-Moore said the idea grew out of an understanding that establishing buffer zones on property boundaries could contain infestations, and reduce potential conflict between landholders regarding different management aspirations at the same time.
As one participant said, “it allows people with clean properties to live beside infested properties with a lot less stress”.
Participants in the voluntary program sign up to an agreement to maintain a minimum 10m weed-free buffer zone on property boundaries, keep stock routes free of declared weeds, complete a property boundary management plan, and provide a weed hygiene declaration for all stock leaving their property.
In return, while it depends on funding yet to be received, the shire will aim to provide assistance with chemicals, some labour, and help in compiling the property boundary plan.
The program has been test-driven by the Department of Agriculture’s War on Western Weeds project, in conjunction with Southern Gulf Catchments, which treated 430km of boundaries over 13 properties, and 28km of waterways.
“We generally found we could control it fairly quickly and it wasn’t overly expensive,” coordinator Nathan March said.
Costs averaged at around $5000 per property.
“Weed control is a lesser priority in drought but this isn’t onerous,” Nathan said. “Our case study showed it was easier to implement than expected.”
Attitudinal surveys confirm that landholders are supportive, saying the buffers were feasible to maintain.
Interest is now extending south to the Muttaburra district, where another case study has been started in the Barcaldine Regional Council area, and Nathan said Winton was also looking at buffers along its stock routes.
“We’ve completed 330km at Muttaburra. It was a more complex channel system but it was just as cheap to do.”
Although the brief is for a minimum 10m buffer on boundaries, quite often control has been extended out 20 to 50m where warranted to take in outlying trees.
Other elements of the Good Neighbour Program are for weed-free buffers 10m either side of the bank for 250m upstream within defined watercourses from a boundary, and 10m either side of gazetted roads, public access roads and powerlines.
The buffer zones are to be reviewed annually.
Participating landholders also agree to participate in wild dog control programs, catchment group projects and funding applications.
Cr Stewart-Moore said the alarming rate that Prickly Acacia was spreading in his region – the area has doubled in size in the last 10 to 15 years, despite all the work being done and money spent on noxious weed control.
“Local government had been throwing lots of money at it too – Flinders trebled our budget on pest management in the last three years – we had to create our own program and start to do something.
“Lots of people were doing different things but someone had to take the lead role. We thought it should be local government – we’re taking the rates and making the local laws.”
Cr Stewart-Moore said he would also like to see the mandated use of weed hygiene declarations, and the enforcement of the illegal movement of weed seed.
“A lot are doing it, via their cattle. If we don’t have this, all effort will be wasted,” he said.
“We’ve accepted we can’t take ticky cattle to clean country – why not apply the same philosophy here?”