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Media Release
The Hon Dr Sharman Stone
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Murray

29 March 2004

Weeds: killing us softly

Weeds are slowly killing the Australian environment and are second only to wholesale land clearing as a cause of biodiversity loss, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr Sharman Stone said today.

"Weeds cost the Australian economy around $4 billion a year and can devastate the environment and place a huge financial burden on tourism and agribusiness," Dr Stone said

"For a grain grower, weeds can cost an average of $70 a hectare a year and Australia spends around $0.5 million a year trying to keep one weed, mimosa pigra, out of Kakadu.

"However, the good news is that we are gradually winning the war on mimosa pigra in some areas."

Dr Stone was speaking at the launch of Killing us softly – Australia's green stalkers: a 2020 Vision Statement , produced by the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Australian Weeds Management.

"In Australia, there are over 2,700 ‘naturalised' alien plants, 10 per cent of which have the potential to become weeds and a quarter of these are likely to become a real problem," Dr Stone said.

"Around 65 per cent of weeds have been intentionally introduced to Australia as ornamental species, including lantana and blackberry .

"The Australian public needs to know what they're buying and what problems it can cause. Unwittingly, many Australian gardeners are planting these weeds and allowing them to survive."

Dr Stone said weeds were not only a financial burden to the Australian environment, they could transform whole ecosystems and choke out native flora and fauna.

"If we continue the way we are going, the next generation won't know a creekline without a tangle of blackberries, or that purple is not the natural colour of North Eastern Victorian hills, which are annually carpeted with Patterson's Curse," Dr Stone said.

"This is a problem that every individual can help attack.

"Don't let weeds survive and be careful what you buy and plant. Plant back natives that our fauna and insects depend upon. Don't dump garden clippings in the bush and support landowners and local councils with appropriate roadside vegetation projects."

Since 1996, more than $11 million in federal Government funding has been used to manage environmental weeds including $2.8 million for the Natural Heritage Trust to manage weeds of national significance.

Dr Stone praised the work of the CRC and their efforts to help educate the Australian public on identifying and understanding the causes and effects of weeds on the Australian environment.

Commonwealth of Australia