Limited strategic coordination between agencies has led to gaps in pest management
The framework under which government agencies, industry and community stakeholders set priorities, allocate funds and work in partnership is not fully established. Although the Council and the BSOG were established in 2008, Western Australia still lacks an integrated state-wide plan for managing pests and agencies roles and responsibilities under the BAM Act have not been clearly defined and agreed. Agencies focus on their core business and have different priorities and goals. This impacts the state’s capacity to manage pests and has led to gaps in the management of pests.
DAFWA’s draft invasive species strategy to support agricultural and pastoral industries reflects a focus on agricultural pests. DPaW’s priority is conserving the state’s natural environment. It has a number of plans that aim to lessen the effects of introduced pests on particular species and ecosystems with high biodiversity values, including a nature conservation strategy plan.
DAFWA agrees that it is important to have a state-wide plan and for agencies to have clear roles and responsibilities under the BAM Act. DAFWA and the BSOG are establishing terms of reference, a memorandum of understanding between agencies and are scoping the development of a state biosecurity strategy for Western Australia which is planned to be in place by July 2014. Completing these tasks should provide the foundation for an effective state-wide plan to manage pests using across-agency support and commitment.
Without clearly defined roles and responsibilities between key agencies there is an increased risk that some established pests may not be effectively controlled. For example, the feral cat is one of the world’s worst invasive species. Although it has a significant negative impact on native animals the feral cat is not declared a pest in Western Australia. Consequently there is no responsibility on landholders to control feral cats on their land. We could not find evidence that the risk posed by feral cats had been assessed and a decision made not to declare under the BAM Act.
Efforts to control cats are mainly undertaken through the Western Shield fauna recovery program and other conservation related programs administered by DPaW.
There is no complete, up to date or accurate picture on the spread, abundance and impact of established pests
We found that there is no current picture of the abundance, spread and impact of established pests in Western Australia. The last reports2 that mapped the distribution of pests in Western Australia were published in 2005 and 2007. Useful data collected by agencies, industry, community groups and landholders is not always shared, as mechanisms for effective and timely exchange of information have not been developed.
As a result, it is very difficult to determine if the impact of pests is increasing, or assess how effective control mechanisms are in managing pests. The lack of up to date information also limits the state’s ability to adapt pest management practices and target resources to changing threats and priorities.
The majority of landholders who responded to our survey believe that the impacts of pests are increasing (Appendix 1, survey question ‘Are the impacts of declared plants and animals increasing or decreasing?’). The comments below express some of the concerns raised.
This highlights the need to establish an effective monitoring and reporting system that supports information exchange across property boundaries. Although monitoring all 169 declared pests would be cost prohibitive, DAFWA should establish a system to track temporal changes in high priority pests.
The following case study of the Cane Toad, which is a pest that is managed by DPaW, shows the westward migration that has occurred over the last five years. The map does not show abundance or impacts of the toad. DPaW is assessing the impact of the Cane Toad on native species by analysing changes to native species populations across a range of sites in the Kimberley. To better understand potential impacts and effective management responses, DPaW also liaises with relevant agencies in other jurisdictions where Cane Toads have been established for some time.
Public information about declared pests is not easy to find, increasing the risk that appropriate action is not taken
Because Western Australia covers a vast geographical area of 2.5 million square kilometres, DAFWA has to place a significant reliance on other agencies and the public reporting pest sightings and on partnerships with industry and community groups to complement its own surveillance and early response capabilities. This is complemented by a requirement under the BAM Act that a person who finds or suspects the presence of a declared pest must report it to DAFWA or risk a penalty of $20 000.
Full use is not made of all potential information sources to enhance public awareness and to encourage the reporting of sightings. Public information about declared pests is not easy to locate. For example, although DAFWA’s website contains some useful information we found it is hard to follow a line of sight from the declared pest list to individual pest management plans to identify what action landholders should take. The process to report pests is also not obvious to the uninformed.
DPaW also provides some information relating to environmental pests on its website and through hard copy brochures, publications and posters.
Our survey highlighted the opportunity to make better use of community information. Fifty-eight per cent of the 692 respondents said that they did not report sightings, incursions or infestations of declared pests. Two main reasons were given:
- landholders did not know where to report the sightings
- they did not report sightings because they believed little or no action would be taken.
Survey comments indicated that landholders wanted ready access to information about pests, to know where to go to report pest sightings and advice about control options.
DAFWA should consider innovative ways to improve public awareness and reporting to increase the effectiveness of its surveillance. For instance, in Victoria trained members of the public report sightings of prohibited weeds. Social media could also be used to report sightings as a relatively low cost means for individuals to report sightings and for the information to be more easily aggregated and disseminated.
DAFWA advised that it is reviewing its website and plans to introduce a pest ‘app’ (application software) that can be downloaded and used to help identify pests.
2 Distribution and Abundance of Pest Animals in Western Australia: A Survey of Institutional Knowledge September 2005. By Andrew P Woolnough, Garry S Gray, Tim J Lowe, Winifred E Kirkpatrick, Ken Rose and Gary R Martin State of the Environment Report Western Australia 2007: Environmental Protection Authority