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What about buffel? Central Australia’s biodiversity crisis ignored by major parties

Despite the NT News stating on the 4th of April that ‘Environment is at the forefront for voters’ it appears that neither major party has interest in protecting Central Australia’s unique and diverse environments.

A buffel grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) fire burning along Undoolya Road for days in mid April and a potentially devastating fire season awaiting Central Australia have not been enough to grab the attention of the major parties this Federal Election. 

Buffel grass is recognised as the greatest invasive species’ threat to arid and semi-arid biodiversity. Suitable for growth across 70% of the Australian continent, buffel outcompetes native grasses, destroys shrubs and large trees, has a positive fire-invasion feedback and monocrops entire landscapes. We have all seen the dense buffel monoculture as you head west along Larapinta Drive in Alice Springs.

Buffel replaces fields of wildflowers and burns down old trees. The slater skink (Liopholis slateri slateri) and the red cabbage palm (Livistona mariae) are just two threatened species that buffel grass is seriously impacting. 

Buffel has also been found to have a strong negative impact on Aborginal culture as it wrecks special places and stops people from gathering bush foods and hunting. 

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. 

The Federal Government has already received expert Threat Abatement Advice around how to manage buffel grass, the problem is that it is not being implemented. It is vital that candidates recognise the Federal Government’s role and show strong leadership around buffel management: implement this advice, fund the programs, conduct the research and fulfil their role in encouraging the States and Territories, such as the Northern Territory Government to respond to the buffel grass invasion and biodiversity loss crisis. 

Why are candidates for Lingiari continuing to ignore the crisis? 

There are vast areas of Central Australia that are still buffel free and where biodiversity flourishes. These are the areas that need to be protected. The best way to manage buffel grass is to focus on the perimeter, stop it spreading into new regions, as well as focusing on roadsides and special places which are already infested. Territorians love their environment and their parks, yet buffel grass places them under threat. 

Central Australia’s beautiful landscapes and special places are worth protecting, and that means addressing the buffel grass crisis. 

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