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06 June 2019

Adjournment debate: South West Coast Electorate Weed Control

My adjournment is for the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, and the action I seek is for the minister to increase departmental resources to help control weeds, including sweet pittosporum, which is spreading exponentially and cannibalising south-west Victoria’s forests.

In the 1990s native forests in the south-west of Victoria were closed to logging and became designated forest parks and national parks. It was the Brumby Labor government which recognised that these areas were of the highest ecological value in the state. It was a Labor government that called for this protection, but successive Labor governments have ignored their duty to maintain and protect these areas. The consequences are devastating and potentially irreversible.

At present the future of these forests around Bolwarra and Heywood is largely in the hands of volunteers who are doing all the hard work trying to eradicate sweet pittosporum but feel like they are fighting a losing battle. Our authorities are grossly under-resourced and completely hamstrung to manage this issue. In south-west Victoria we have a few rangers who oversee all the forests and national parks from Port Campbell to Tower Hill. The passionate ranger I met with recently grapples to control the weeds which cannibalise our revered bushland. She is reliant on the goodwill and commitment of a volunteer workforce, including the Friends of Tower Hill, whom I met with recently and who begged me to assist them with their passionate work maintaining Tower Hill.

When it comes to protecting our ecosystem against the scourge of weeds, Labor has left us with no commitment, no plan, no resources and almost no hope. If the eradication of these weeds is not prioritised, our forests as we know them will have disappeared within a generation. Destruction of this kind is heartbreaking and unconscionable. Labor appears to have forgotten that sweet pittosporum and other weeds substantially reduce biodiversity. The growth of flowering flora and native grasses is inhibited, and native birds are then starved of nectar and seeds. Imagine our forests without robins, wrens, finches and the seed-feeding crimson rosella.

Does the state government care about the survival of our native flora and fauna? If it does—and it ought to—then action must be taken. Within my electorate there are no fewer than six volunteer groups who are devoting their time and efforts to eradicating weeds in the bush reserves, coastal reserves and state game reserves, but they have many thousands of acres to maintain. It is a never-ending battle, one which ought to be fought using state-funded resources. I call on the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change to devote the resources required to work to eradicate this cancer from our region before it is too late.