New report underscores need for urgent investment in gamba control
A new report into the spread of Gamba Grass has revealed that efforts to manage the highly invasive weed on public land are failing, and that increased effort and investment is urgently needed to manage risks to public safety and the environment.
“Our research focuses on creating a deeper understanding of which land managers are struggling to manage gamba grass, with an aim of helping the NT Government assess the additional resources needed and where to most strategically apply them to stop further spread,” said author Techa Beaumont.
The report Gamba Grass and Land Tenure in the Northern Territory, commissioned by the Gamba Grass Roots Alliance and produced by the Centre for Conservation Geography, outlines known records of gamba grass and their documented spread, by location, tenure and land manager. Freehold and Crown lands show the greatest increase in known gamba grass records, with a particularly abrupt increase on freehold land in the Darwin Rural area.
“We’ve also seen that roads are one of the primary pathways for gamba grass spread. Although roads represent only a small proportion of land area and gamba infestation, they play a major role in its spread to new locations, particularly in the Eradication Zone,” said Ms Beaumont.
“It’s clear that the current level of funding is inadequate to properly manage the spread of Gamba on public land. This produces twin damages – not only are we witnessing more intense bushfires, but we risk private landholders losing faith in overall control efforts,” said Mitch Hart, NT Manager for the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Gamba grass is a highly invasive declared weed regarded as one of the most significant threats to ecosystems and livelihoods in the Northern Territory. Because it creates a much higher fuel load than native grasses, gamba grass greatly increases the intensity of fires.
“We know that many landholders are working hard to control gamba on their land, but this analysis shows that there are still plenty of landholders that are unable or unwilling to control the weed. It’s clear that the issue is reaching a crisis point, particularly in the Darwin, Palmerston and Darwin Rural areas,” said Mr Hart.
“Even with the best efforts of under-resourced government agencies, the weed is utilising road corridors to spread deeper into the Eradication Zone, highlighting the urgent need for intensified efforts with clear targets to stop its spread.”
“This is a fight that we can win – but we need to do more now. What is urgently required is more resources and more intensive efforts to enable public and private land managers to control or eradicate gamba grass. The only way to tackle this problem is a whole-of-government approach that engages and funds community efforts alongside their own obligations on Crown land,” said Mr Hart.
The report recommends that the NT Government:
- Conduct more outreach and provide funding for gamba control by freehold landholders and pastoral leaseholders.
- Provide greater support for the control efforts of NT Parks and Wildlife.
- Increase management of gamba grass on public lands.
- Target areas highly susceptible to new infestations to limit further spread.
- Prioritise sufficient funding to eradicate infestations in the Eradication Zone.
- Apply a coordinated whole-of-government approach to address the growing gamba grass threat.
For further information or to arrange interviews, please call Josh on 0422 491 237
Notes for editors:
- The report Gamba Grass and Land Tenure in the Northern Territory is available for download.
- Community members available for interview:
- Rob Woods (0488 442 269) is a Tourism Operator from Malak who is very concerned about the impact of gamba fires on iconic natural areas such as Litchfield National Park. He runs eco-tours in the area and has long advocated for increased investment to tackle gamba spread on government-owned land.
- Pauline Cass (0438 686 144) is a landholder from Humpty Doo and a volunteer firefighter. She has seen first-hand the devastating bushfire fronts made more intense from gamba infestations.
- Mike Clark (0413 742 151) is a Howard Springs resident who has been involved in land care works for many years. He has been conducting a project with trial bushland plots, around the Palmerston/Zuccoli area, that are all affected by gamba.
- Gamba Grass Declaration Zones
- The Zone B Control Zone extends from Darwin and southwards through the Darwin Rural area to the edge of Katherine. Within this area, gamba growth is to be controlled in containment and reduction in infestation sizes.
- The Zone A Eradication Zone is all remaining areas of the Northern Territory. Within this area, gamba is to be completely eradicated.
Source: Northern Territory Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Weed Management Plan For Gamba Grass (2018)