POOWONG and District Landcare is rallying the State Government to increase assistance to weed inspectors to force landowners to control their weeds.
The government has said it’ll help, but won’t enforce everywhere.
As with most Landcare groups, they group is struggling to cope with a major weed problem.
Aside from weeds being an eyesore on farms and the roadside, they have the ability to harm cattle – and not just the landowner’s stock, but their neighbours’ kilometres away.
“It’s not just that the weeds are there, the problem is people are letting them go to seed and that then impacts on the surrounding neighbours who work very hard to keep their weeds down,” said Jeff Clark, member of Poowong and District Landcare Group.
The most problematic weeds are ragwort, thistles, and blackberries, Mr Clark said.
“Every ragwort that grows up puts out about 500,000 seeds. Now those seeds, half of them fall within a metre of the plant.
“The other ones blow away and they’ve found those up to 3km away.
“Once they hit the ground they can sit there for 13 years without coming up. When the conditions are right, bang, they pop up, so you’re looking at a long term problem if you let it go.”
Mr Clark used to work at the Department of Primary Industries as a weed inspector.
“Normally, back a few years, the department would’ve come in and issued a notice to those people to do it (remove weeds). These days they don’t even bother doing that.”
The problem now is, Mr Clark said, some are under the impression it’s now Landcare’s responsibility to tell people to clean up their weeds.
“We are not funded to do anything. We have no authority to do anything,” Mr Clark said.
“If you start talking to a neighbour about the lack of effort to do anything on weeds – they get upset and then you create a bad neighbour and weeds are only part of being a neighbour.”
He added that most landowners make attempts to eradicate weeds, but they can get out of control very quickly and can cost a lot of money to remove.
“Landcare try to assist wherever they can but that’s not always possible.”
A spokesperson for Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio, said the State Government had allocated $5.2 million over two years for the Roadside Weeds and Pests Program.
“The funding allows grants of up to $75,000 to be distributed each year to the 56 eligible councils to help manage invasive plants and pests along rural roadsides.
“South Gippsland Shire Council received $45,935 from the Roadside Weeds and Pests Program in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 financial years.”
Mr Clark admitted that the worker who does the spraying in South Gippsland “knows what he’s doing and he’s doing a good job” and it is helping clean up roadsides.
However, he said the funding is not enough to do the whole shire.
“There are grants that Landcare groups can apply for funding to assist in weed control.
“They will get a grant to pay half of the chemical price if the people do it, so that helps.
“What we need is the government to enforce, which is their word, ‘enforce’, the control of weeds.”
So Poowong and District Landcare Group decided to act. They wrote to Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio, and Minister for Agriculture, Jaala Pulford.
In a letter last month from Minister Pulford, she said the State Government focuses on enforcement of weed control “where there is sustained and coordinated community-led action”.
“The Victorian Government cannot enforce action on all widespread established weed infestations.
“As these species cannot be eradicated from the state. Agriculture Victoria prioritises its enforcement effort to areas where partnership with the community can achieve the most effective outcomes.”
Mr Clark said they just want to see more assistance given to weed inspectors to help them get out there and enforce people to clean up their weeds.