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Canberra must not ignore dieback in WA

Canberra politicians appear to be ignoring the single biggest threat to biodiversity in WA’s South-West as identified by scientists, the Australian Greens say.

WA Senator Rachel Siewert, who questioned the Federal Government about phytophthora dieback in Parliament this week, said she was extremely concerned that despite the disease being a “key threatening process” under the Federal legislation, little to no Federal money was available to fight the problem.

“Dieback is listed as a key threatening process under the Commonwealth’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act and has also been subject to a National Threat Abatement Plan since 2001,” Senator Siewert said.

“It has infected one million hectares of WA’s south-west and another one million hectares are now at high risk.

“However, WA scientists and land managers who have been fighting and researching the dieback problem in WA since before the abatement plan was developed say there has been no Federal funding or resources to go with it.

“In answer to my questions this week, the Federal Government said that a May 2009 version of the national threat abatement plan has been developed, yet some of the people playing key roles in protecting WA from phytophera dieback here know nothing about it.

“It is also of great concern that the Rudd Government’s Caring for Country program, which is a key source of funding for natural resource management (NRM) in regional areas, does not include targets for dieback protection.

“Project Dieback, run by WA NRM groups, has identified the urgent next steps to control dieback, including signage, aerial spraying, mobile wash-down bays and localised eradication and containment actions.

“WA scientists and land managers say $10 million is needed annually to stop dieback spreading – yet it looks as if there may not be any Caring for Country money to deal with this.

“You cannot help but wonder if this is because WA is a long way from Canberra.

“I note that phytophthora dieback is a national problem and Federal funding is needed to address it in Tasmania, South Australia, New South Wales and especially southern WA WA.

“Meanwhile WA’s South-West is the only place in Australia to be internationally-recognised as a biodiversity hot spot. Dieback is therefore a national concern and the Federal Government cannot shirk its responsibility.

“Dieback threatens assets worth millions of dollars in WA’s South-West, including timber, tourism and the potential for forest carbon sinks and pharmaceutical drugs derived from our rare flora.

“The State Government must also recognise this problem. This week I urged the Federal Government not to support the WA Premier’s reckless proposal for a new tourist road through the heart of Fitzgerald River National Park.

“This park is recognised by Project Dieback to be an “ark”, or refuge, for WA’s unique flora and fauna. Dieback scientists tell me that putting a new road through the park would undoubtedly spread dieback.”

To view a transcript of Senator Siewert’s questions to the Federal Government, go to:

For more information or media inquiries, please call Eloise Dortch on 0415 507 763


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