A NEW decision support tool—a Weed Risk
Management (WRM) system—is being developed in the Northern
Territory to assess and respond to the risks posed by exotic
plants. The system is being developed for the Northern Territory by
Charles Darwin University and the NT Government.
Some exotic plants, such as gamba, cause devastating changes to
Photo: Sam Setterfield
CDU researcher Dr Samantha Setterfield said the development of
the system was being guided by the National Post-Border Weed Risk
Management Protocol as well as through working with weed experts
from around the country.
“Weeds are recognised as a key threat to biodiversity
conservation, industry and in some instances human health,”
she said. “However, recognising the problem is only the first
step, we then need to establish which weeds are priorities and then
how to respond to the threat.”
The system will assess the relative risk posed by exotic plants
and how best to respond to these risks. It takes into account the
characteristics of the plant, its current and potential impacts,
and how feasible it is to control.
“The WRM process will provide a standard, transparent, and
scientifically based assessment of both potential and current weed
species,” said Samantha. “We are currently customising
the system to suit the NT and some of the unique problems we face,
such as weeds changing fire regimes.”
The development of the WRM system was overseen by a Technical
Committee, which comprises scientists from CDU and a range of
government departments (Natural Resources Environment and the Arts,
Primary Industry, Fisheries and Mines, and the Australian
Quarantine and Inspection Service).
However stakeholder involvement was recognised as a key element
in developing the system.
Dr Keith Ferdinands, Weed Risk Manager for NT NRETA, said that to
ensure input from key stakeholders a Weed Risk Management Reference
Group was formed.
The group has government and non-government industry
representatives—which include the NT Cattleman’s
association, NT Garden and Nursery Association, World Wildlife Fund
Australia and the Central Land Council. Workshops also ensured that
stakeholders in the Northern Territory were involved in planning
and implementing the strategy.
“To ensure transparency and accountability, a detailed
species assessment document is prepared for each WRM
candidate,” explained Keith. “When the WRM
development is completed and the Technical Committee recommends a
weed risk and feasibility of control score, the species assessment
documents will be available for all interested parties to
scrutinise for support or appeal, and to provide additional
To date, 80 WRM candidate species have been assessed, and a
preliminary weed risk and feasibility of control score has
determined for each species. A report on these candidate species
and suggested management recommendations will be presented to the
NT Government by the end of 2007.