A failure of biosecurity regulations is being blamed for the spread of a highly invasive weed west of the Blue Mountains, which is being transported via trains.
- Pampas grass is being spread along rail corridors to western NSW where it is not prohibited
- Local Land Services are reviewing their priority weeds to include the highly invasive species
- The grass can be purchased at nurseries despite being a fire risk and a threat to native species
The Invasive Species Council has identified pampas grass as a growing risk to the state’s critically endangered habitats and agriculture industry, particularly further inland of Lithgow.
The council’s chief executive officer Andrew Cox said the weed was well-established in Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains, and as a result seeds had been spread by train along rail corridors.
The weed is considered a regional priority in Greater Sydney.
But it does not appear on priority weed lists, which are managed by Local Land Services (LLS), anywhere west of the Blue Mountains.
“There are no constraints on where you can plant it — we think that’s wrong, particularly in higher rainfall areas,” Mr Cox said.
Mr Cox said tougher restrictions on the sale and control of the grass must quickly be introduced to the region.
One of the most obvious methods would be to stop nurseries from selling the species in New South Wales, he said.
“You’ll have a major weed problem — we’ll just see pampas grass being as prevalent as blackberry and lantana weed,” he said.
“We know a stitch in time saves nine with weeds.”
The grass is also extremely flammable, adding another risk factor to an area already prone to bushfires.
Establishment on agricultural land would see it become “unusable”, Mr Cox said.
“We would just see another burden placed on land managers who are having to deal with enough weeds as it is.”
Authorities review priority weeds
The Central Tablelands LLS identified pampas grass as a growing concern in the region.
A review into about 50 species considered priority weeds in the region will look at adding the native.
Regional Weed Coordinator Marita Sydes said even though pampas grass did not appear on the list, weed officers were already working with landholders to control it.
“It hasn’t been seen as an issue previously but we’re now trying to proactively follow up on that,” Ms Sydes said.
Adding a new species to the regional control plan would open up opportunities for local weed officers and councils to take more action.
“It gives more leverage to ask for more funding to ask for control,” she said.
Council ramp up controls
Local Council Areas ultimately adopt weed control programs.
In the neighbouring Blue Mountains City Council, pampas grass is a regional priority weed.
The council acknowledged the plant “should be eradicated from the land and the land kept free of the plant”.
Lithgow City Council is yet to follow suit but supported the inclusion of pampas grass on the LLS priority weeds list.
Mayor Ray Thompson said it had become more prevalent in the area after recent floods and bushfires.
He said Lithgow council would consider partnering with the Blue Mountains to get on top of the situation.
“Now that it’s been raised as an issue we’ll endeavour as a joint venture to get on top of the weed,” he said.
Council’s weed contractors have been spraying pampas grass in areas of concern over recent months.