UPPER Macquarie County Council (UMCC) is mulling strong action, including infringement notices, against landholders responsible for the major growth of weeds in the region.
UMCC is responsible for biosecurity in parts of the Bathurst, Blayney, Oberon and Lithgow council areas.
UMCC general manager David Young said there has been a major flush of noxious weed growth in some parts.
“It was mainly because grounds were more heavily grazed during the drought and also the desirable pasture plants had died due to lack of water,” Mr Young said.
“As it rained in many parts of Bathurst, Blayney, Lithgow and Oberon recently, the massive bank of weed seeds, which can last in the ground from five to 50 years, were quick to germinate.
“The resulting weed plants grew faster than the desirable pasture plants.”
The priority noxious weeds that are thriving on recent rainfall include blackberry, serrated tussock and St John’s wort, broom and Chilean needle grass.
There are also outbreaks of Paterson’s curse, scotch and nodding thistles, which require controlling as they will reduce land productivity.
The county council said it is landholders’ responsibility to control weeds on their properties.
“There are some landholders who didn’t control weeds on their property before the drought and are still not attempting to keep noxious weeds under control on their properties,” the UMCC said.
“These so-called recalcitrant landholders are the enforcement targets.”
The county council is planning to use satellite-based remote sensing to predetermine the higher risk weed-invaded properties and take direct action.
Currently, it has a small team of weed inspectors who look after 1.35 million hectares and 40,000 properties.
Mr Young said the UMCC has not taken any legal enforcement since the new legislation came into effect 18 months ago.
“But this is about to change,” he said.
“The county council now has a comprehensive compliance and enforcement policy in place and the enforcement tools are provided in legislation to tackle the recalcitrant landholders.”
Mr Young said inspectors will be soon re-visiting those properties which were found to be infested with weeds in the past six months.
“Landholders can expect enforceable direction notices and penalty infringement notices if the required work outlined has not been undertaken.”
Mr Young said the county council will seek landholders’ co-operation before initiating any action.
“We will commence more compelling enforcement tactics such as legal directions, issuing penalty notices, or compulsory works orders if landholders fail to control their weeds after a reasonable effort by the council,” he said.
“If all else fails and the weed problem presents a serious biosecurity risk, we will have the landholder in court where they potentially face criminal charges and corresponding penalties.”