The spread of noxious weeds continue to be a major problem facing primary producers and the Queensland pastoral industry generally, costing farmers and graziers in Queensland an estimated $30 million a year in reduced production and increased management costs. It is therefore little wonder that the spread of noxious weeds is acknowledged as among the most serious of threats to biological diversity in the State.
Whilst many noxious weeds normally flourish in spring and early summer, continued rain and poor weather over much of the State has resulted in conditions expected to be conducive to their growth and spread through the winter months.
The Land Protection (Pest and Stock Route Management) Act 2002 (Qld) (Act) imposes strict obligations upon owners and occupiers of land to ensure that any noxious weeds found on their property are managed and where possible removed; failure to comply with these obligations can result is severe financial penalties and, in extreme cases the possible loss of ownership of the property.
It is therefore very important that landowners are vigilant in ensuring that the spread of noxious weeds is prevented.
1.0 WHAT ARE YOUR OBLIGATIONS?
1.1 OBLIGATION TO CONTROL
Pursuant to the provisions of the Act, it is the responsibility of each landowner to prevent the spread of noxious weeds, although quite often this obligation is also imposed concurrently upon persons holding lesser interests in land such as leases and easements granted by the landowner.
This obligation extends to both the eradication of existing weeds, as well as the implementation of long-term management schemes to identify and eradicate all future outbreaks.
The Act particularly requires landowners must take reasonable steps to keep the following types of land free from Class 1 and Class 2 noxious weeds (details of which are available at the website of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (Department) http://www.daf.qld.gov.au/):
the owner’s land;
unfenced land comprising part of a road or stock route that adjoins or is within the owner’s land;
other land that is fenced in with the owner’s land;
the bed, banks and water of a watercourse on the owner’s land; and
the bed, banks and water to the centre-line of a watercourse forming a boundary, or part of a boundary of the owner’s land.
1.2 OBLIGATION TO COMPLY WITH NOTICE
If you, as a landowner:
- fail to comply with the obligations imposed under the Act; or
- it is determined that any Class 1, 2 or 3 noxious weed is in existence on your land,
then the Department is empowered to issue a formal notice requiring the removal of any noxious weeds within a stipulated time at your own costher land tht.
Failure to comply with this notice can result in sanction under the Act including:
- The removal of noxious weeds by the Department at your cost;
- The imposition of fines;
- The quarantining of all or part of your land; and
- The quarantining and inspection/treatment of any stock which may have been exposed to noxious weeds so as to ensure that no reproductive matter is spread.
Further to the above, should the cost of any works carried out by the Department not be paid, the Department may take possession of and sell your land for the purpose of recovering those costs.
1.3 OBLIGATION TO PREVENT SPREAD BY TRANSPORT AND SALE
In addition to your obligation to prevent the natural spread of noxious weeds on and from your property, the Act also imposes significant penalties in circumstances where landowners knowingly or negligently permit the spread of the reproductive material of noxious weeds form their property by other means.
The Act makes it an offence to supply goods to another which contain or are likely to contain the reproductive material of noxious weeds.
Examples of goods which have been known to be problematic in this respect are:
- stock; and
A further requirement prohibits any person from moving or transporting a vehicle on a road if they know or reasonably suspect that soil or other organic material in or on the vehicle is likely to contain the reproductive material of a noxious weed.
The failure to comply with these requirements can result in significant fines, as well as liability to third parties who suffer loss as a consequence.
2.0 WHAT CAN YOU DO TO MINIMISE THE EFFECT OF NOXIOUS WEEDS?
The most effective way to ensure that you satisfy your obligations as a landowner is the through the implementation of appropriate pest control management schemes.
Given the severity of the penalties which are able to be imposed under the Act, it is imperative that landowners are vigilant in the identification of noxious weeds and the implementation of appropriate risk management practices.
Assistance in this regard can be obtained from the Department, which publishes guidelines not only for weed management generally, but information is relation to all declared pests and weeds for the purposes of the Act.