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Central Australia is amidst a biodiversity crisis caused by buffel grass but CLP Candidate Damien Ryan dismisses buffel concern and promotes ‘Get-up’ myth

Media Release  l  Arid Lands Environment Centre 

At the ABC Election forum last night in Humpty Doo, Country Liberal Party candidate for Lingiari, Damien Ryan in response to a debate around gamba and buffel grass, stated “if I can make a comment about buffel grass, there was a group Getup at a forum in Alice Springs and they had a vision of making buffel grass a weed, I am really sorry, but I support the Pastoral industry, it is a huge part of the Northern Territory. On that night I spoke about rangers helping to remove buffel from certain areas, but not to remove buffel full stop, it is part of our cattle industry.

Get-up does not run a campaign on buffel grass. This is misleading and false. 

However, alongside long-term buffel campaigners and stakeholders, Arid Lands Environment Centre is running a Federal Government campaign for national leadership on buffel management.

Buffel grass is a serious issue that has widespread biodiversity impacts, increases fire risk, and is a financial burden for land managers, including pastoralists and government agencies. It is recognised as a “High Risk” weed in the NT Government’s Alice Springs Regional Weeds Strategy and threatens significant sites in the NT including Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and Greater MacDonnell Ranges.

The risk of buffel to our biodiversity cannot be underestimated” said Jade Kudrenko, General Manager Arid Lands Environment Centre. “Central Australia has some of the worst rates of mammal extinction in the world, and buffel is a contributing factor”.

The slater skink (Liopholis slateri slateri) and the red cabbage palm (Livistona mariae) are just two iconic central Australian threatened species that buffel grass is seriously impacting.  Buffel has also been found to have a strong negative impact on Aboriginal culture as it wrecks special places and stops people from gathering bush foods and hunting.  

Managing buffel is an ongoing issue for Alice Springs which should be taken seriously by candidates for Lingiari. Locally, the aesthetics and ecology of the Todd River are frequently caught in the middle of resource management issues—the result being poorly managed buffel along the river corridor that increases fire risks to large, mature red gums. Verge management is also a financial burden to the Alice Springs Town Council and buffel is rife on verges following any rain events.

Buffel is not supported by all land managers and pastoralists. Local land manager Rod Cramer stipulates that the hybridised buffel is a major problem for his family's property. “Cattle do not do well on hybridised buffel. Cattle can’t get enough nutrition from hybridised buffel and there are issues with oxalate poisoning.” On his family’s property, buffel displaces spinifex and the buffel fires themselves have a greater impact on biodiversity. “Fighting a buffel fire is horrendous,” said Cramer.

While buffel grass severely destroys Central Australia’s landscapes, threatens already vulnerable species and impacts culture, the Federal Government is currently doing nothing to address the crisis. 

This is even more damning as the Federal Government should play a key role in weed management and protecting at risk species and ecosystems. 

It is vital that our local candidates show strong leadership around buffel management and protecting Central Australia’s biodiversity.

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