Buffel a weed? Yet another committee.

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LETTER TO THE EDITOR

The Government has determined the next step to reduce the impact of buffel grass in Central Australia.

The Buffel Grass Technical Working Group (TWG) was formed in 2023 to address environmental concerns around buffel grass, which makes wildfires more intense and impacts biodiversity.

The TWG provided its findings, which recommend a Weed Advisory Committee be formed to build on the findings and develop a management plan, with the view of declaring buffel grass a weed.

The committee will include members with expertise in land management and stakeholders from the pastoral industry with diverse backgrounds, to ensure we better understand the economic and environmental perspectives as well as the practicalities of managing buffel grass in Central Australia.

The committee will develop a strategy that prioritises areas and methods where direct management of buffel grass will be most valuable and effective.

The strategy will take three months to complete and build on the work already completed by the TWG.

The strategy will be used to determine how declaring buffel grass as a weed can balance the protection of priority areas with the role buffel plays as fodder for the pastoral industry and as a soil stabiliser.

Kate Worden, Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water Security.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Again and again I’m reminded of my favourite graffiti I read in a book by Eduardo Galeano:
    Basta de hechos. Queremos promesas.
    Enough of deeds. We want promises.
    A committee, what a good idea.

  2. Staring down the barrel of another horrific fire season, especially after this rain, and our “leaders” still won’t lead.
    The first technical working group included land managers and pastoralists. Did they not do a good enough job of representing industry interests and now want a second crack without the pesky scientists around?
    Are there any land managers in the NT that have demonstrated practical skill in landscape level management of buffel grass, besides getting it going on a grand scale? Maybe we should just bite the bullet and ask SA what to do?
    Here’s a novel way to better understand the economic perspectives of managing / not managing buffel Central Australia, including the impacts on tourism, art, health: Commission an independent economic evaluation? Yeah, nah, just ask a land manager?!
    Anyone still claiming buffel is anything more than a short term solution for soil stabilisation doesn’t understand desertification, the role of mid and upper story in determining wind speed, nor have they visited Central Australia after the fires have been through. The buffel dries in long dry periods and the dust storms are already back.

  3. I commend the Minister for turning to pastoral land managers with actual land management experience for guidance from them on an issue that will primarily impact them. They have skin in the game unlike activist groups.

  4. Still selling commercial buffel seed in Queensland. One hand not knowing or caring about the other? And a committee???
    Ancient Oriental proverb: A camel was once a thoroughbred race horse, re designed by a committee.

  5. @ Shaun Jones: Pastoralists have been catastrophic “land managers” and buffel has been a temporary get-out-of-jail-free card for poor land management practices.
    In the short term, buffel grass has been an effective dust suppressant, but dust suppression is only necessary because many areas of inland Australia have been subject to catastrophic degradation via overstocking.
    In the long term, much more intense and frequent buffel-fuelled fires wipe out upper and mid-story tree cover, increasing wind speed and leading to more dust dispersal.
    As buffel converts landscapes into near-monocultures frequently subjected to hot burns, the presence of beneficial rhizospheric fungi and biological soil crusts is reduced, soil health is generally depleted, and buffel becomes increasingly susceptible to insect pests and fungal pathogens, ultimately causing widespread dieback.
    Once widespread dieback occurs (as is currently occurring in significant areas of inland Queensland), the dust suppressing qualities of buffel grass are no longer.
    The pastoral industry in Central Australia is living on borrowed time – buffel monocultures prone to dieback will eventually kill it. Pastoralists are ultimately pissing in the wind in opposing a buffel weed declaration in the NT.
    The uncontrolled spread of buffel grass primarily impacts First Nations people across Central Australia, who make up the majority of people living in remote arid and semi-arid Australia. Traditional Owners and custodians across Central Australia have spoken passionately about the impacts of buffel grass on Aboriginal people and culture. The Umuwa Statement on Buffel Grass (signed by 156 First Nations land managers) reads, in part: “We the First Nations people of the desert did not bring Buffel grass to this land. But it is here and it is killing our country and threatening our communities and culture”.

  6. @ Jorgen: Show me a pastoral lease with a buffel monoculture – I’d like to make an offer!
    No facts, actual evidence or experience behind the points you make. That’s the reason activists like yourself (if I may assume) are not invited to take a seat at the working group table. No skin in the game. No experience. No idea. Just a whole lot of misguided emotion.

  7. @ Shaun: Evidence and experience. Take a look at my backyard in Yuendumu. Not a pastoral lease.
    Not yet a monoculture but certainly heading that way.
    So if you are against that weed you’re an activist and denied a seat at the table. If you’re in favour of it you’re a businessman and own the table.

  8. Quick! Under the table and hide! Buffel grass is starting its own fires and burning down homes all by itself! It’s got nothing to do with home maintenance.
    There doesn’t seem to be much that so-called “first nations people” aren’t impacted by if some do-gooder wants it for them (irrespective of their actual wishes).
    Write all the statements you want for them and get them to nod along, you’ll do just as much genuine good as a land council. Perhaps traditional land owners could start by picking up all the rubbish they seem to be farming, then there’s a chance plants will actually grow.
    Please explain what is a declaration going to achieve? Who is going to pay for the mechanical, chemical or biological control to eradicate a plant that has hybridised and adapted to its locations in the past 100 or so years?
    A plant that holds soil, retains moisture, sequesters carbon, provides shelter for species, etc? What will replace the buffel grass when you remove it? Bogan flea?
    Do us all a favour and target the rabbits, camels, horses, donkeys and buffalo instead.

  9. John T. I can’t believe your patronising comments about Aboriginal people who are very capable of seeing the destruction of country with their own eyes.
    Moreover weighing up the words on this page I think the activists demonstrate a much better understanding of buffel grass than your off topic plea to limit discussion to picking up rubbish and pest animals!
    Maybe do some research about PLANTS before you post and save us all some time.
    Buffel grass planted by industry with dubious support from Government is severely impacting native ecosystems, national parks, neighbouring communities and enterprises that didn’t plant it and don’t want it but are heavily impacted nonetheless.
    If you do have something of value to say, please don’t be shy and hide your knowledge under a buffel grass weed in some distant paddock of the never never.

  10. Frank, Jacqueline, Jorgen, Trevor and Mike: Seeing as we are into Proverbs, I think Matthew 7: 6-7 applies here.
    “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.”

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