Weeds and the Biosecurity Act
Published on 01 February 2023
It’s important for Snowy Monaro residents and ratepayers to understand the weed control requirements for land owners and managers under the current regulatory framework.
Understanding both your individual responsibility and when and how government authorities will step in is just as important as having knowledge of our local priority weeds.
What legislation governs the management of weeds?
Previously in NSW, weeds were governed by the Noxious Weeds Act 1993. This legislation was prescriptive and imposed strict control requirements on land managers to control certain weeds, including locally important weeds such as Serrated Tussock, African Lovegrass and St John’s Wort.
On 1 July 2017, the Noxious Weeds Act 1993 was repealed and the Biosecurity Act 2015 (the Act) became the primary legislation governing weeds. Most locally important weeds are no longer identified on a ‘noxious weeds list’, nor does the legislation impose strict requirements in many cases.
The Act creates a general legal duty called the General Biosecurity Duty (GBD). GBD means that everyone has a responsibility to prevent, eliminate and minimise biosecurity risks associated with weeds – so far as reasonably practicable.
Who is responsible for administering weeds legislation?
Snowy Monaro Regional Council, as the Local Control Authority in our region, continues to be the primary agency administering weeds legislation under the guidance of NSW Department of Primary Industries. Council is assisted in this role by partners including Local Land Services, industry and local agronomists.
What are Council’s responsibilities in relation to weeds?
Council has a number of important functions in weeds biosecurity, including:
- Preventing the entry of new weeds
- Finding, containing and eradicating emerging weeds
- Minimising the impacts of weeds that cannot be eradicated
In fulfilling these functions, it is important that Council maintains an active property inspection program targeting private and public properties, roadsides and high risk sites – including: nurseries, rest areas, campsites, boat ramps and other high visitation areas where new weeds may gain entry to the region.
Council is also responsible for managing weeds on its network of roads, reserves and operational lands and invests considerable funds into managing these weeds for the benefit of the local community.
What am I required to do in relation to weeds under the Biosecurity Act 2015?
A number of state priority weeds are identified in Schedule 2 of the Act. These weeds are referred to as Prohibited Matter. These weeds have not established self-sustaining populations in NSW and pose a significant risk to human health, the economy and/or the environment. All dealings with these weeds are prohibited and Council must be immediately notified if you become aware of, or suspect the presence of these weeds. Of these Prohibited Matter weeds, only Orange Hawkweed has been detected within the Snowy Monaro region, although others have been detected in nearby jurisdictions.
Biosecurity zones and control orders apply to a limited number of weeds which have very limited distribution and abundance in NSW and pose a high biosecurity risk. For these weeds, eradication is considered feasible and control measures must be implemented by landowners and managers to assist in eradication efforts.
Schedule 3 of the Biosecurity Regulations 2017 lists a number of weeds to which mandatory measures apply. This list includes Serrated Tussock, Fireweed, Chilean Needle Grass, Gorse and a number of other weeds that have previously been referred to as Weeds of National Significance. A prohibition on sale and importation applies to these weeds.
What about weeds that are not specifically legislated?
Most local priority weeds are no longer subject to specific control requirements under current NSW legislation.
State and Regional Weeds Committees have analysed each weed species using a rigorous weed risk assessment tool and determined that either they have a low risk rating or it is not feasible to contain or eliminate them. The latter applies to most locally important weeds, in that they pose a high risk to the economy, environment and/or community, though are too widespread and established for regulation to provide any tangible benefit to the community.
Investment in weed management, including the imposition of compulsory control measures, is most cost effective when applied at the early stages of a weed’s invasion.
The South East Regional Strategic Weed Management Plan provides guidance on the outcomes needed to meet your GBD and it outlines strategic actions for local weed management, resource allocation and investment.
What does Council do to help landowners deal with unlegislated weeds?
Council continues to provide the same onsite weed identification and advisory service for all weeds, regardless of their status. Council acknowledges that weeds have a significant impact on our community and encourages active participation in coordinated weed control programs.
Can’t identify a weed?
Send in some photographs to email@example.com or arrange an onsite inspection and one of our staff will promptly respond. There are thousands of weed species, so if it’s one that we’re not familiar with we can forward photos on to our state-wide networks or send a sample to the herbarium for a positive identification.
Download the free NSW WeedWise app for detailed information on how to identify and manage weeds. Visit www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/biosecurity/weeds
Visit Council’s website to understand how we can help you with weed management. www.snowymonaro.nsw.gov.au/Environment-Waste-and-Weeds/Biosecurity-and-Weeds
Visit the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) website for information on weed control methods – www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/biosecurity/weeds/weed-control
Contact Snowy Monaro Regional Council if you have any questions regarding weeds on your property or in your neighbourhood. Call 1300 345 345 to be connected to our Biosecurity Officers who specialise in weed management.