Benefits of national weed initiatives for New South Wales: Successes and future opportunities

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Hillary Cherry

Weeds of National Significance Coordinator, Pest and Ecological Management Unit, New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage, PO Box 1967 Hurstville, New South Wales 1481, Australia.

Matt Sheehan

National Weed Spread Prevention Coordinator, Wild Matters Pty Ltd, 4/1 Halford Street Castlemaine, Victoria 3450, Australia.

Cite this article as:

Cherry, H., Sheehan, M. and Wu, H. (2013). Benefits of national weed initiatives for New South Wales: Successes and future opportunities. Plant Protection Quarterly 28(3), 70-2.


Effective weed management is most successfully achieved when done in an integrated and coordinated manner. This applies to on-ground action, i.e. implementing weed control, as well as to policy, planning and resourcing. The partnerships and relationships that underpin weed management are equally as important as the ‘on-ground’ activities. Like weeds, these foundational partnerships should know no boundaries. To achieve landscape-scale outcomes for the protection of biodiversity and production assets, it is critical to integrate local, regional, state and national partners in planning and implementation. This paper demonstrates how national initiatives and the high level plans, strategies and frameworks that result from them, have resulted in stronger partnerships and improved on-ground weed management. We use examples from the last 10 years of the Weeds of National Significance (WoNS) initiative to outline the benefits of collaborative weed management in New South Wales. We then explore how local, regional and state partners in New South Wales can benefit from participation in future national weed management initiatives, including national surveillance, weed spread prevention and WoNS opportunities.

Keywords: coordination, eradication, surveillance, early detection, National Invasive Plant Surveillance Framework, Weeds of National Significance.


Cooperative management and strong, comprehensive partnerships are foundational components of strategic weed management efforts. Just as effective control methods are fundamental to success; so too is the need to engage in cross-tenure partnerships that include all affected parties and allow them to align their goals and priorities. In New South Wales, there are multiple ‘layers’ of weed management policy, planning and action: community and Local government; regional weed committees and Natural Resource Management groups; and state-level entities all interact in the process of managing weeds. These groups work together to ensure that long-term goals align, however given the large number of groups, and limited resources, many groups may not have the time or ability to coordinate across all partners. Thus, an overarching coordination role that brings together weed management efforts at several levels can be beneficial.

The New South Wales government supports regional and state weed coordinators, and also partners with the Australian Government to contribute to national weed coordination through the Weeds of National Significance (WoNS) program. The WoNS initiative is a joint effort by all governments to reduce the impact and prevent the spread of some of Australia’s worst weeds. National strategic plans are in place for 32 WoNS, and national coordinators (hosted by State and Territory agencies and jointly funded by the Australian Government) work with weed managers at all levels to implement WoNS strategic plans. New South Wales is a major player in the WoNS initiative and has hosted 11 of the 32 WoNS coordination projects. Since 2004, the Department of Primary Industries has hosted: the aquatic weeds alligator weed (Alternathera philoxeroides (Mart.) Griseb.), cabomba (Cabomba caroliniana A.Gray), salvinia (Salvinia molesta D.S.Mitch), water hyacinth (Eichornia crassipies (Mart.) Solms) and sagittaria (Sagittaria platyphylla (Engelm.) J.G. Smith); and the serrated tussock (Nassella trichotoma (Nees) Hack. ex Arechav.); Chilean needle grass (Nassella neesiana Trin. & Rupr.) Barkworth; and fireweed (Senecio madagascariensis Poir.) coordinators. Since 2005, the Office of Environment and Heritage has hosted the bitou bush and boneseed (Chrysanthemoides monilifera (L.) Norl.), asparagus weeds (Asparagus spp.) and brooms (Cytisus scoparius (L.) Link and Genista spp.) coordinators. To facilitate implementation of WoNS strategic plans, coordinators engage with and support local, regional and state weed initiatives and encourage partnerships to achieve WoNS actions and provide flow on benefits for other weeds and broader weed management (Cherry et al. 2012).

In addition to WoNS coordination roles, the Australian Government, in partnership with the States and Territories, support a National Weed Spread Prevention Coordinator, who facilitates the National Weed Spread Prevention Initiative (NWSPI). This initiative was established in 2011 to progress national action on early detection and weed spread prevention goals, as outlined in the Australian Weed Strategy (AWS) and the Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity (IGAB). New South Wales is a partner in implementing the AWS and IGAB: the New South Wales Invasive Species Plan and Biosecurity Strategy are aligned to the goals in these national initiatives.

The NWSPI seeks to improve national capability for weed prevention and early detection by improving communication and knowledge sharing between stakeholders. The initiative has worked with States and Territories to determine what national systems and structures could assist in improving jurisdictional rapid response capabilities. This engagement has resulted in the development of industry-wide weed surveillance protocols, the establishment of new nation-wide discussion groups on weed prevention and rapid intervention, and the National Invasive Plant Surveillance Framework (NIPSF). The Framework aims to strengthen Australia’s post-border capacity for early detection and rapid response to new invasive plant incursions and range expansions of existing invasive plants.

This paper highlights achievements from these national initiatives, which focus on developing plans and facilitating partnerships to collaboratively address landscape-level weed issues. We then explore possible opportunities for New South Wales weed managers to engage in these initiatives in the future.

New South Wales successful partnerships

National initiatives and the plans, strategies and frameworks that result from them, are high level bureaucratic documents that, without careful implementation, have the potential to result in negligible improvement to on-ground weed management. The legacy of national coordination has been in providing a conduit for information sharing and collaboration that ensures these high level plans reflect on ground needs, and that action in these plans translates into tangible on-ground outcomes.

Collaboration in the WoNS initiative provides long-term benefits for New South Wales. Joint partnerships have led to long-lasting programs for eradication (e.g. boneseed, parthenium (Parthenium hysterophorus L.), parkinsonia (Parkinsonia aculeata L.) and containment (e.g. bitou bush, lantana (Lantana camara L.), gorse (Ulex europaeus L.), Chilean needle grass and cabomba) of WoNS in New South Wales, minimising future impacts. WoNS coordinators also support New South Wales state programs, for example for bitou bush, fireweed, serrated tussock and aquatic weeds) and work together with regional and local groups to support community efforts, for example Willow Warriors). WoNS partnerships link weed researchers and managers and encourage cooperative research on a national and international scale. For example, over 18 biological control agents for eight WoNS are active in New South Wales, and partnerships support continued research and redistribution of these agents across the state. WoNS coordinators also support joint awareness initiatives, such as New South Wales No Space for Weeds, and the development of education resources, for example, Weeds Attack! a web-based tool to teach primary school students about weed impacts developed with the New South Wales Department of Education (see Cherry et al. 2009).

An overarching goal for WoNS partners is to integrate and align national, state, regional and local plans to create a legacy that allows strategic weed management actions to continue, with all levels of government supporting agreed priorities (Cherry et al. 2012). In New South Wales, WoNS coordinators have worked with all partners to align WoNS actions and goals to the New South Wales Invasive Species Plan, regional catchment action plans, regional weed action plans, and the New South Wales Biodiversity Priorities for Widespread Weeds project, which is an overarching threat abatement strategy that works to reduce the impacts of widespread weeds on biodiversity across New South Wales (Turner et al. 2013). These are in turn aligned to the AWS and IGAB, as noted above. Thus activities that achieve regional or state goals will also contribute to achieving national goals, and may be eligible for a greater number of funding opportunities from all levels of government.

National coordination through the National Weed Spread Prevention Initiative has also allowed integration of national and New South Wales weed efforts. This initiative has improved communication between partners involved in weed spread prevention and early detection, both within New South Wales and across borders. Workshops with key partners such as industry bodies, herbaria, and primary production and conservation agencies have provided opportunities to better understand the individual motivations for involvement in a national surveillance system, and have allowed scoping of a national system that will align to the needs of all partners. The initiative has increased commitment from industry to weed surveillance, highlighted the contributions of herbaria to national surveillance efforts, and developed a framework to align surveillance approaches nationally. The National Invasive Plant Surveillance Framework includes specific actions that are designed to facilitate and extend on actions under the New South Wales New Weed Incursion Plan (NSW DPI 2009). An example of this is the recognition within the framework that herbaria play a critical role in the identification, verification, curation and reporting of invasive plants. As in the New South Wales New Weed Incursion Plan, actions are also included in the framework to facilitate adequate and ongoing support to ensure critical herbaria services are maintained and/or expanded to improve capability for early detection of new weeds in New South Wales.

Future opportunities

The successes detailed above for the original 20 WoNS are continuing, and strategic plans for these WoNS were revised in 2012 to set national direction through to 2017. In addition, there are 12 new WoNS strategic plans that also present opportunities for the future. These new and revised plans were agreed by all levels of government, and thus actions in these plans reflect national and jurisdictional priorities. National coordination of the 12 new plans began in 2012. While continued support for national coordinators is subject to resource availability, all new plans include as high priority actions: 1) support of a national coordination role; and 2) development of a national management group, to engage all partners in strategic plan implementation.

The 12 new plans encompass 45 weeds (3 cover multiple species: 27 cacti, 6 asparagus weeds and 3 brooms), and at least 40 of those impact New South Wales, or may in the future. Many opportunities exist for New South Wales to benefit from participation in new WoNS activities. All 12 plans have overarching high-level objectives, and partners in New South Wales can develop actions to address these objectives in ways that achieve local, regional and state priorities. These objectives include that: a) invasion vectors, sources and pathways are identified and managed to prevent or reduce spread; b) surveillance and response mechanisms ensure timely detection of infestations; c) priority outlier infestations are contained or eradicated and spread from core infestations is prevented; d) priority assets are benefitting from long term strategic weed control programs; e) integrated weed management practices are improving natural resource condition and sustainable production; f) best practice management delivers efficient, effective and long-term control; g) capability and motivation for weed management is enhanced by education and awareness; and h) research priorities are identified, promoted, addressed and results are used to improve management.

While the WoNS initiative is largely a species-specific approach, actions undertaken to achieve WoNS objectives will be relevant to many other weeds. Holistic actions towards these objectives, and maintaining the legacy of existing WoNS achievements, will help progress national weed management efforts and cement partnerships from national to local levels to collaboratively achieve AWS and IGAB goals, as well as implement the NIPSF. The National Weed Spread Prevention Initiative also provides a mechanism to continue this legacy and value-add to existing efforts. Sustained partnerships, coordination, and communication will allow continued alignment of weed management objectives across all levels, and strengthen the ability of partners to deliver the best possible cross-landscape outcomes. National initiatives such as WoNS and NWSPI provide a strong framework to deliver such outcomes. The challenge is to ensure a coordinated approach is maintained in future, that continues to connect high level policies and plans to on-ground action. This will ensure on-ground actions are strategic and meaningful, and will build on the significant investment in weed management over the past decade. Collaborative partnerships established as part of these national initiatives may provide a mechanism for this connection in the future, both for New South Wales and nationally. Please visit the Weeds of National Significance site online (WoNS 2013) for WoNS strategic plans and related resources.


WoNS and the NWSPI are supported through funding from the Australian Government’s Caring for Our Country program and by contributions from States and Territories. Successful implementation of strategic WoNS management actions is a collaborative effort by Australian, State, Territory and Local governments, researchers and regional, community and industry groups across Australia.


Cherry, H., Snell, K. and Petroeschevsky, A. (2009). Spreading the word on weeds – education and information sharing examples from the WONS program. Proceedings of 15th Biennial New South Wales Weeds Conference. (New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Narrabri, New South Wales).

Cherry, H., Turner, P., Strehling, N. and English, D. (2012). Meeting objectives of the Australian Weeds Strategy through collaborative management of icon weed species: from the national to the local level. Proceedings of the 18th Australasian Weeds Conference, ed. V. Eldershaw, pp. 187-90. (Weed Society of Victoria, Melbourne).

NSW DPI, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (2009). ‘New South Wales New Weed Incursion Plan 2009-2015’. (Department of Primary Industries New South Wales, Orange).

Turner, P.J., Hamilton M.A., Caldwell, J. and Johnson, S.B. (2013). Strategic weed management in protected areas of New South Wales. Proceedings of the 17th New South Wales Weeds Conference, ed. H. Wu. (Weeds Society of New South Wales, Wahroonga, Sydney).

WoNS, Weeds of National Significance (2013). (accessed 24 July 2013).

First published online: September 6, 2013