Hilltops Council’s Weeds Officers are now called Biosecurity Officers. This aligns with the new Legislation governing weed management in NSW, the Biosecurity Act 2015. Council’s dedicated Biosecurity Officer’s will support landholders with information and advice on weed related Biosecurity compliance matters and routine inspections. https://legislation.nsw.gov.au/view/html/inforce/current/act-2015-024
Local Government and weeds management
Why does local government have a responsibility for weeds?
Local government delivers services for communities across New South Wales (NSW). These are grouped broadly into five core functions and services: protecting the local environment, providing and maintaining infrastructure, safeguarding public health, supporting community development and planning for sustainable development (Councillor Handbook, Office of Local Government, 2017).
Managing weeds is part of providing these five core services. Different weeds create different problems in different parts of NSW, and councils are best placed to make informed decisions about the weeds management priorities for their local communities. Responsive weeds management is a strategic, ongoing component of local government work.
NSW local government has had a legal responsibility for managing weeds across their LGA for more than 100 years. Weed management has been legislated under several Acts in that time and is now legislated under the Biosecurity Act 2015 (the Act) and Biosecurity Regulation 2017 (the Regulation) – see Section 2.
The Act maintains local councils as the local control authority for weeds within their area of operation – see Section 3. This provides continuity in weeds management, while other key stakeholders support local government initiatives to manage weeds – see Section 5
As local control authorities for weeds Councils:
○ Appoint and support staff as Authorised Officers under the Act – see Section 4
○ Inspect lands for high-risk weeds and seek compliance with the Act from owners/occupiers
○ Educate their communities about weeds risk and best practice weeds management
○ Control high-risk weeds, high risk weed sites and pathways
○ Submit weeds management records to the NSW government
○ Participate in regional strategic weeds management through their Regional Weed Committee.
What is a weed?
Simply, a weed is defined as a plant growing where you don’t want it. However, it is far more complicated than that. In NSW there are many other definitions for weeds too. You may have heard of environmental weeds, agricultural weeds, Weeds of National Significance (WoNS) and National Environmental Alert List weeds.
These are all different classifications of weeds and interestingly some weeds can be several of these classifications. For instance, serrated tussock is a WoNS and a serious agricultural weed in some parts of NSW. Similarly, alligator weed is a WoNS, an environmental weed and is now emerging as an agricultural weed as well.
You can check what weeds are in your area and how they need to be managed using NSW WeedWise. https://weeds.dpi.nsw.gov.au/
In NSW all plants are regulated with a general biosecurity duty to prevent, eliminate or minimise any biosecurity risk they may pose. Any person who deals with any plant, who knows (or ought to know) of any biosecurity risk, has a duty to ensure the risk is prevented, eliminated or minimised, so far as is reasonably practicable.
What is a Priority weed?
The Department of Primary Industry has determined weed species that are considered a ‘priority’ in terms of eradication or control in NSW. Of this list, there are 12 species that are currently identified as being a priority for the Hilltops Council area.
Weed prioritisation is based on a weed risk assessment (WRA) across the Hilltops LGA, and in some specific cases a site specific WRA may be undertaken to assess the risks an invasive plant may pose to key assets such as prime agricultural land, threatened ecosystems or listed vulnerable species.
The Hilltops Council priority weeds species and weed prioritisation is guided by the principle that managing weeds earlier rather than later is more cost effective. Hilltops weed management objectives support this principle and prioritises outcomes for which can be achieved in the early stages of the invasion process.
Hilltops Council Priority Weeds
Follow the titled links below for information on identifying and controlling some priority weeds found in the Hilltops Council area or alternatively conduct your own weed search on the NSW WeedWise website.
What we do
Biosecurity weed education
The primary focus of Council’s biosecurity program is to educate everyone about biosecurity risks and encourage weed control activities. We work to an inspection program that aims to have a Biosecurity Officer inspect properties every six years and provide a property-specific weed report. If you are a new land owner and would like information about weed issues in your locality please contact Council’s Biosecurity team.
Hilltops Council biosecurity officers are always happy and available to answer any queries or concerns you may have about anything growing on your land or roadsides within the Hilltops LGA as well as your legal obligation regarding weeds and the Biosecurity Act 2015. We endeavour to maintain a collaborative and cooperative relationship with landholders/managers.
If you are a member of a community group and would like a Biosecurity Weeds Officer to come to a local event, such as a community group meeting, field day or seminar, please contact Council’s Biosecurity team.
Biosecurity weed Inspections and enforcement
Council’s weed inspection activities are scheduled on a risk management basis. While all properties are ideally inspected or surveyed once every five to six years, more frequent surveillance is required at some locations to protect priority assets, ensure control of priority weed species or at priority weed sites and monitor for new weed arrivals.
The Biosecurity Act 2015 has strong powers, including the ability for authorised officers to enter any land (except residential premises). As part of Council’s normal practice, we send an inspection letter to the property owner prior to an inspection and will follow up with a weeds report afterwards.
The biosecurity weeds compliance enforcement activity is the extreme outcome where a land owner/ manager or carrier has not complied with their legislative requirements. This may result in a biosecurity direction, court action and/or enforced control.
High Risk pathway and site monitoring
The high risk pathway and site monitoring aims to survey major roads and inspect sites where there is a high risk of new weeds being imported from outside the region. The frequency is risk based, with high risk pathways and sites inspected up to four times each annually based on the assessed risk level.
Most pathways and sites have been defined in collaboration with the regional weeds committees which Hilltops Council are members of to ensure a consistent monitoring program across the South East and Riverina regions of NSW. Each side of the LGA’s major State and regional roads are surveyed up to four times per year. Another 136 high risk sites (such as rest areas, silos, feed merchants, truck washes, tips, campgrounds and nurseries) are also inspected up to 4 times per year.
Of particular concern are weed species that we don’t currently have in our region or state, but particularly those that are known to occur in the surrounding South East and Riverina regions or further afield.
Roadside weed management
Council’s weed inspection activities are scheduled on the back of our pathway and roadside inspections and customer calls. We have spray vehicles with up to date Quikspray units, with dedicated staff, in each of the Councils three major depots in Boorowa, Harden and Young. Council undertakes weed control on our managed lands as per our biosecurity duty requirements and fire mitigation road shoulder vegetation control.
Council staff endeavour to use best practice and weed specific chemical on jobs wherever possible to minimise off target damage and resistance building.
Weed concerns on neighbouring property
Council has an ongoing monitoring and compliance program.
If you are not satisfied that a land manager (public or private) is meeting their biosecurity duty, then please contact Council’s Biosecurity team and we will review the complaint. If the weed is a state priority weed species, per the South East and Riverina Regional Strategic Weed Management Plan, that requires rapid response then we will deal with the request as a matter of urgency. For more established weeds we will check compliance at the time of the next inspection. If the next inspection is not due soon, Council may undertake an inspection on this property to assess the weed and remind the land manager of their biosecurity duty for the priority weed(s) concerned.
If you wish to make a complaint about weed control please contact Hilltops Council, either by email or phone.
Please provide the following information in your complaint:
- your contact details so we can obtain further information if required,
- the weed species you are concerned about,
- the address of the property(s) where that weed occurs, and
- why you believe the weeds are posing an impact (or have the potential to pose an impact)