Support the national parks service

Mostly as a result of the devastating wildfires in Victoria, the Department of Environment and Climate Change has come in for extraordinary levels of criticism in recent weeks over its alleged policies on fuel management in national parks.

Largely fuelled by decades-long prejudices, the critics have been quick to support their case with tired out old arguments that parks are simply nurseries for weeds and feral animals.

The Parks Service manages only eight per cent of land in NSW, about six and a half million hectares, spending approximately $26 million per year on pest animal and weed control and, contrary to what the critics would have us believe, undertakes widespread hazard-reduction burning.

This compares more than favourably with the amounts spent by those who manage the remaining 12 million hectares of commercial forests, which the critics are happy to ignore.

Introduced pests are one of the greatest threats to Australia's biodiversity, and the reality is that these problems occur across the entire landscape, not only in national parks. In the Clarence Valley, water hyacinth is clogging waterways, mostly on private property, to the point where many water birds find these wetlands uninhabitable.

Bitou bush was inherited by the Parks Service after it was introduced by sand miners several decades ago to stabilise dunes. This problem is being addressed by the Parks Service, and volunteer groups, costing taxpayers millions of dollars, while those who created the problem walk away scott free.

Cane toads were introduced to control beetles in sugar cane plantations, and are now decimating native species across northern Australia, and moving south.

Locally, the problem is again being actively addressed by the Parks Service, and willing volunteers, even though there has been limited occurrence of toads in the Valley's parks.

Another serious weed, cats claw creeper, has the potential to rival lantana as a problem.

Outbreaks of this, and others pests like camphor laurel, and the Indian mynah bird, also mostly occur outside national parks where volunteer land care groups are struggling to make an impact.

Introduced pest species are a major threat to biodiversity, so instead of playing politics and trying to score points, the entire community needs to get involved, and support the ongoing efforts of the dedicated officers of our Parks Service.

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