Page 594 - Week 02 - Thursday, 18 February 2016

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Madam Speaker, retaining vigilance and a responsive capacity is critical if incursions such as these are to be identified and destroyed before their spread causes millions of dollars of damage to our environment and industry. In closing, I firmly reiterate that the ACT government is well progressed in delivering another yearly environmental weeds control program. I present the following paper:

Environmental Weed Management Program 2015/16—Progress on the delivery—Ministerial statement, 18 February 2016.

I move:

That the Assembly take note of the paper.

MS LAWDER (Brindabella) (11.22): I thank Mr Gentleman for providing this update on the weeds program. It was pretty much in response to a motion I moved in November which called on the ACT government to reinstate the weed management funding cut in the 2015-16 budget, to reinstate meetings of the ACT Weeds Advisory Group and to report back to the Assembly in February 2016 on progress. The motion that I put forward of course was amended by the government. Nevertheless Mr Gentleman has provided this update today.

The update today does not mention reinstating the weed management funding. I note that TAMS have spent only about 30 per cent of their total budget so far. We are seven months or maybe 60 per cent through the year and, whilst pro rata spending is not necessarily the only way to measure effectiveness or efficiency, I wonder why we have spent only 30 per cent of the budget to date. I hope we are not going to underspend badly on this budget item with the potential to have the weeds out of control by not using up the budget, albeit the already diminished budget, in the weeds area. African love grass, which was the major thrust of my motion presented late last year, gets one very brief mention in your statement, Minister Gentleman. That is a little disappointing. It also does not mention the Weeds Advisory Group.

While we talk about expenditure of $1.5 million on the weeds program this year, there was no indication in Mr Gentleman’s statement whether that amount is adequate based on advice from responsible weeds officials in the directorate, the Weeds Advisory Group and feedback from the community, including the volunteers who are also assisting in managing weeds. The estimates committee was told that an average of just over $2 million in recent years was just adequate to stay on top of the weed problem.

The minister also said that funding enables the control of weeds in many of the territory’s protected areas. He says only “many of the areas”, and not that the program is adequate for all protected areas. The minister makes a good point that weed control work in any given year is susceptible to prevailing weather conditions. However, he seems to claim that the 2015-16 ACT budget was framed in the knowledge that: “The weather conditions thus far have provided for a slow weed year, which is a positive thing.” It remains to be seen whether the year will remain slow for weeds. It is a post-hoc rationalisation that funding reduction is okay because the weeds did not grow.

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