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Not just Lhere Mparntwe - Minister Worden visits Central Australia as Buffel Grass spreads across the Arid Lands

As Central Australia becomes smothered by highly invasive buffel grass, environmental campaigners and Aboriginal advocates met with the NT Environment Minister. The meeting on Monday 8th April 2024 continued calls for strong weed declaration on buffel grass across the arid lands, its recognition as a national invasive threat and seeking clarity in the NTG’s process.

Minister Kate Worden met with:

  • Veronica Perrule Dobson AM, Senior Eastern Arrernte Ecologist and Linguist 
  • Camille Dobson 
  • Maureen Nampanjimpa O’Keefe, Director of Water Justice Project
  • Adrian Tomlinson, CEO of ALEC
  • Alex Vaughan, Policy Officer of ALEC
  • Meret MacDonald, ALEC Communications and Community Engagement

The discussion detailed the impacts of invasive buffel grass not only in urban Alice Springs, but also across all arid lands, and remote places - it is a key threatening process across the arid lands - with impacts on biodiversity, health, culture and tourism. 

Veronica Perrule Dobson AM spoke to her country, the impacts on Ltyentye Apurte, Eastern Arrernte waterholes, biodiversity and sacred places. The Minister was provided with a copy of Verionica Perrule Dobson AM’s paper from the Australasian Journal of Water Resources:  Restoring cultural plant communities at sacred water sites.

Camille Dobson spoke of the impact on the caterpillar Ayepe‑Arenye. These caterpillars are a highly significant creation story for Mparntwe Alice Springs and the McDonnell Ranges creation story. Buffel grass has led to the degradation of their food sources, with hot fires severely impacting their reproductive cycle.

Maureen Nampanjimpa O’Keefe spoke of the increasingly severe fire risk and how the buffel grass threatens spinifex, bush medicines and cultural practice on Kaytetye country near Ali Curung. 

“Weed declaration is not about eradicating buffel grass from the arid lands. It is recognition of its catastrophic impacts and that there are significant opportunities to improve its management.” said Alex Vaughan, ALEC

“Weed declaration is the standard and best practice approach globally and nationally to better manage problematic species. It is a key tool to build from and is deeply uncontroversial. Declaration enables an array of vital investment and management opportunities to arise” said Alex Vaughan, ALEC

There are significant opportunities for the Territory in declaring buffel grass a weed. ALEC is participating in national conversations - such as the National Established Weeds Prioirty Framework. Buffel is being increasingly recognised as a national issue requiring coordination and engagement, with weed declaration a clear opportunity for the Northern Territory.

  • There is 1.3 billion in federal money coming to ranger programs to care for country and mitigate the weed risk. 
  • Buffel Grass is severely impacting federally recognised sites of threatened species conservation such as McDonnell Ranges.
  • Buffel grass is recognised as the greatest weed issue at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, jointly managed by Traditional Owners and Parks Australia.   
  • With Territory and National recognition of buffel grass as a weed resources can be leveraged for increased mapping and research and scientific partnerships.

The Minister has indicated action on buffel before the election.

“The government has the responsibility to accurately communicate and provide information on the weed declaration process, and the incredible risks posed by buffel grass. There is urgency to effectively managing buffel grass, we could expect major fires by spring” said Adrian Tomlinson ALEC CEO.

Comments from the Minister’s Office below:

The Minister has established a Weed Advisory Committee to develop a buffel grass management strategy that prioritises areas and methods where direct management actions will be most valuable and the most effective.

The buffel grass management strategy will determine how we progress in a manner that balances all aspects of our community and economy - areas of cultural, environmental and conservation significance must be protected, while industry is supported to manage business in an environmentally sound manner

The aim is for the strategy to inform a weed declaration tailored to balance the protection of priority areas, with the role of buffel as fodder for the pastoral industry.

The strategy will be completed within three months and builds on and extends the work of the Technical Working Group and their recommendations around regulation, funding, research and education.

Once developed, the Minister has the option to approve the strategy as a statutory weed management plan under the Act.


Media Liaison: Meret MacDonald 0456 475 810

Further comment: Alex Vaughan 0427 573 178

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