Canker (particularly Cryptodiaporthe melanocraespida and Zythiostroma species) is another disease affecting the State's flora in the south-west. Current data show that disease development can be rapid causing plant death within 2 years. Occurrence of plant disease is dependant on a combination of a susceptible host, infective pathogen, infection site and favourable environmental conditions. Research carried out to date suggests that Cryptodiaporthe melanocraespida preferentially enters through wounds.
Aerial canker may impact on some species listed on the Export Flora List. When research indicates that there is an issue this will be taken into consideration in respect to the management of flora harvesting, including limiting Crown land harvesting, or the removal of the species from the Export Flora List, where this is warranted.
The issue of fire is a complex one. Fire may be either a natural event (e.g. lightning strikes) or started by humans, either deliberately (prescribed burning, arson) or by accident. Depending upon its timing, intensity, and frequency, fire may be a tool for regeneration or may adversely affect the conservation status of an area through, for example, changes to taxa composition or local extinctions as a result of too-frequent fire. In addition, in areas close to houses, farms or other property, prescribed use of fire may be necessary for protection of human life and property.
In forest production areas, DEC's burn prescriptions take into account protection of life and property, timber production and nature conservation requirements. On conservation reserves, protection of life and property and nature conservation are the primary considerations.
DEC does not generally burn areas of land specifically for purposes associated with flora harvesting. However, wherever practical, flora harvesters have access to burn plans in State forest areas, and can plan harvesting operations accordingly. Harvesting is generally not permitted during the year before and for several years after a prescribed burn to facilitate the regeneration of species, especially re-seeder species.
Similarly, in the event of a wildfire on DEC managed lands harvesting will not be permitted for several seasons post fire.
Amendments to the Environmental Protection Act 1986 in 2004 resulted in tighter restrictions on clearing of native vegetation in WA. Under these amendments, clearing is not generally permitted where the biodiversity values, land conservation and water protection roles of native vegetation would be significantly affected. ‘Clearing’ as defined in the Environmental Protection Act is:
(a) the killing or destruction of;
(b) the removal of;
(c) the severing or ringbarking of trunks or stems of; or
(d) the doing of any other substantial damage to, some or all of the native vegetation in an area, and includes the draining or flooding of land, the burning of vegetation, the grazing of stock, or any other act or activity, that causes:
(e) the killing or destruction of;
(f) the severing of trunks or stems of; or
(g) any other substantial damage to, some or all of the native vegetation in an area.
All clearing of native vegetation requires a permit unless it is exempt. There are exemptions under the Act for activities authorised under certain other legislation. Further exemptions under the associated Environmental Protection (Clearing of Native Vegetation) Regulations 2004 enable day-to-day activities that have a low environmental impact (e.g. maintenance of existing cleared areas around infrastructure, clearing firebreaks or fencelines). Exemptions under the Regulations do not apply in Environmentally Sensitive Areas which are defined and include areas within threatened ecological communities, within 50m of declared rare flora sites, and within 50m of significant wetlands.
The harvesting of protected flora under a licence issued under the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 is an exempt activity under the Environmental Protection Act 1986, and hence does not require a clearing permit. However, the issue of a licence which enables any such harvesting on private property must take into account the requirements of the Environmental Protection Act 1986 to ensure that it is environmentally acceptable. Non-destructive harvesting of flora, whereby the source plants recover fully from the harvest activity, is regulated simply through the licensing provisions of the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950, while any other proposed harvest activity will require approved management strategies and an assessment against the clearing principles detailed in the Environmental Protection Act 1986. Similarly, any harvest activity that includes the taking of any significant amount of non-target flora, including situations of salvage harvest from land clearing activities, will require assessment for land clearing under the Environmental Protection Act 1986. A Commercial Producers Licence shall not be issued for the sale of protected flora taken from private property if the harvest of that flora would be seriously at variance with the clearing principles. The 10 clearing principles, as specified in Schedule 5 of the Environmental Protection Act 1986, are listed below:
(a) Native vegetation should not be cleared if it comprises a high level of biological diversity.
(b) Native vegetation should not be cleared if it comprises the whole or a part of, or is necessary for the maintenance of, a significant habitat for fauna indigenous to Western Australia.
(c) Native vegetation should not be cleared if it includes, or is necessary for the continued existence of, rare flora.
(d) Native vegetation should not be cleared if it comprises the whole or a part of, or is necessary for the maintenance of a threatened ecological community.
(e) Native vegetation should not be cleared if it is significant as a remnant of native vegetation in an area that has been extensively cleared.
(f) Native vegetation should not be cleared if it is growing in, or in association with, an environment associated with a watercourse or wetland.
(g) Native vegetation should not be cleared if the clearing of the vegetation is likely to cause appreciable land degradation.
(h) Native vegetation should not be cleared if the clearing of the vegetation is likely to have an impact on the environmental values of any adjacent or nearby conservation area.
(i) Native vegetation should not be cleared if the clearing of the vegetation is likely to cause deterioration in the quality of surface or underground water.
(j) Native vegetation should not be cleared the clearing of the vegetation is likely to cause, or exacerbate, the incidence or intensity of flooding.
Mining in Western Australia is regulated through the Mining Act 1978 administered by the Department of Mines and Petroleum and the Environmental Protection Act 1986 administered by DEC. In general, areas where mining occurs are outside the main areas for commercial flora harvesting, with the exception of bauxite mining in the jarrah forest, and mineral sands mining along the coast north and south of Perth. One aspect of the commercial flora industry, seed collection for rehabilitation, is involved directly in these and other areas as it is needed for the revegetation of areas after mining is completed. Mining proposals may also require Commonwealth approval under the EPBC Act (see final paragraph of section 2.3 above for further details).
Mining affects a small number of species harvested for the flora industry as it occurs in small pockets of the State. The Department is consulted and made aware of proposals which may affect the flora industry.
However the creation of survey/seismic lines is an issue to the flora industry. The mining industry is responsible for the rehabilitation of these lines and hence flora pickers are denied access to these lines so they do not become permanent tracks.
Salinity is one of the State’s most critical environmental problems. Secondary salinisation has resulted from rising water tables as a consequence of the removal of deep rooted native perennial plants and their replacement by shallow rooted annual crops and pastures. This allows more rainfall to pass below the root zone and accumulates as groundwater, in turn causing the water table to rise. The groundwater mobilises natural salts in the soil as it rises and carries them toward the surface, eventually degrading land and waterways.
In 1996 it was estimated that 1.8 million hectares of farmed areas has been affected by salinity (Government of Western Australia, 1996). As salinity is preventable and thought to be reversible in the long term, the Government of Western Australia released and commenced implementation of the Salinity Action Plan in November 1996. The Salinity Action Plan details measures designed to arrest and reverse the impact of salinity in the State. This Plan was updated and re-released as the State Salinity Strategy in March 2000.
Salinity may, in the longer term, affect a small number of species on the Export Flora List. If this occurs to the extent that the species becomes of conservation concern, harvesting of these species for flowers will be suspended, while seed harvest for revegetation purposes would continue to be permitted.
The flora industry, through the harvesting of native seed, has a significant role to play in the revegetation of cleared land in areas affected by salinity.
Of the 13,481 taxa of vascular plants growing wild in Western Australia (as at June 2012), about 90% are native, the rest (1224 vascular plant taxa) have been introduced and become naturalised in Western Australia (Hussey et al, 2007; DEC, 2012). Many of these plants have the potential to cause degradation and eventual simplification of bushland ecosystems. Invasion of bushland is usually associated with disturbance; hence by keeping disturbance of the bush to a minimum, the chances of further weed invasion can be significantly reduced.
Weeds that are considered to become, or are, a problem to agriculture can be formally ‘declared’ under the Agriculture and Related Resources Protection Act 1976. The list of declared plants is updated each year. As of December 2007, 77 non aquatic plants were gazetted as being Declared Plants. In August 2012, the Minister for Environment also endorsed a revised list of 59 taxa which are serious weeds of roadsides.
In 1999 the Department released an Environmental Weed Strategy for Western Australia which provides information on environmental weeds and their management. This was followed in 2001 by the release of the State Weed Plan which will direct weed management in the State.
Management of weeds in the flora industry is through education of pickers and the industry. In addition, if the cultivation of any Australian native plant that is not native to Western Australia poses a threat to Western Australian native plant species, ecosystems or habitat, DEC may restrict the utilisation of that plant by removing the species from the Export Flora List.
3.8 Myrtle Rust
Myrtle rust is a wind borne pathogen that causes widespread devastation to myrtaceous plants. It is a rust fungus native to South America and is a member of a fungal complex assigned the name Puccinia psidii sensu lato. It is also known by the synonym Uredo rangelii, and the common names ‘guava rust’ and ‘eucalyptus rust’. It was first detected in the central coast of New South Wales in April 2010 and has since been found on numerous properties including natural bushland in NSW, and more recently in Queensland and Victoria.
Myrtle rust is currently not known to be in WA and the susceptibility of many potential and recognised hosts in Western Australia is unknown, however, it has the potential to impact all plants in the family Myrtaceae, including many species of value to the flora industry, and therefore poses a significant threat to the economy and biodiversity of Western Australia.
A Myrtle Rust Preparedness and Response Plan is being drafted jointly by the WA Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA), Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) and Forest Products Commission (FPC) working group. The working group reports to the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Minister for Environment and Minster for Forests through the WA Biosecurity Senior Officers Group.
Aims and Objectives of this Management Plan
DEC’s overall aim for the management of commercial flora harvesting is:
“to manage the commercial harvesting of protected flora on Crown land and private property to ensure that harvesting is undertaken in a manner that does not jeopardise the conservation of the species [taxon] being harvested, nor, in the case of Crown land, the conservation values of the land" (from Policy Statement No.13, copied at Appendix 2).
The specific objectives of this management plan are to:
ensure conservation of the taxa subject to this plan by maintaining sustainable populations throughout their existing geographical ranges in the State, taking into account the precautionary principle;
manage the commercial harvesting of protected flora to ensure that it is undertaken in a manner that does not jeopardise the conservation of the taxon being harvested nor, in the case of Crown land, the conservation values of the land;
provide for the development and operation of the flora industry in Western Australia in accordance with the principles of ecological sustainability, Government policy and the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950; and
provide for inter-generational equity by ensuring that the health, diversity and productivity of the environment is maintained or enhanced for the benefit of future generations.
It is necessary to set subsidiary aims which focus these broad objectives and therefore help to determine the appropriate management procedures.
The first objective seeks to ensure the overall conservation of the flora taxa subject to commercial harvesting. The aims subsidiary to this objective are to:
conduct a biological survey program in order to identify changes to the distribution and conservation status of protected flora;
record and update information provided through the biological survey program and external sources on the distribution and conservation status of protected flora;
· encourage sustainable commercial flora harvesting on private land to promote the maintenance of biological diversity on such lands;
· progressively develop a representative system of reserves throughout the State to provide for the protection of flora taxa; and
· progressively develop the taxon-specific conservation system that provides full legal protection for threatened and other declared flora taxa on a statewide basis, as Declared Rare Flora (pursuant to the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950).
The second objective focuses on the actual management of the harvest to ensure the conservation of the taxa involved and their habitats. Aims to achieve this objective are to:
· regulate, through a licensing regime, the harvesting (picking) or collection of stems, fruit, seeds, foliage and flowers of protected flora, on Crown land, subject to land use priorities, conservation needs and management conditions;
· regulate, through a licensing regime, the sale of protected flora derived from commercial harvesting on private land, and through that regulation ensure the conservation of harvested flora on private land;
· permit whole plants to be taken from Crown land and sold from private property through special licence conditions where the taking is under a legitimate, DEC-approved, salvage operation;
· implement management practices to conserve harvested species of flora and their habitats, including the use of precautionary measures;
· define management categories for species sharing similar management requirements and, where relevant, implement a system providing for maximum harvest limits to be set; and
· develop and operate suitable monitoring, verification and analysis systems related to the status of plant taxa and the level and impacts of harvesting.
The third objective relates to the development and efficient regulation of the flora industry. The aims subsidiary to this objective are to:
· further develop and maintain an effective administrative, licensing and monitoring system to ensure sustainable operation of the industry;
· provide for a sufficient financial return to the State from licensing and royalties so that the industry meets the cost of regulation required to satisfy State and Commonwealth requirements;
· endorse harvesting on appropriate DEC-managed lands, and lands over which DEC has management agreements in place, within sustainable levels for individual taxa and to maintain the conservation values of those lands; and
· develop feedback strategies to allow for modifications to management where there has been either a change in the status of taxa being harvested, or a change in the management requirements of lands subject to flora harvesting.
The fourth objective relates to inter-generational equity.
The first three objectives are designed to ensure that the commercial harvest is ecologically sustainable and that the use of these resources does not prevent future generations from meeting their needs.
5.1 Management Measures
The key measures available to DEC to regulate the flora industry include:
- what flora/parts of flora are taken;
- where they may be taken;
- how they are taken; and
- in the case of flora taken from private property, the sale of the flora;
licence endorsements which give further control for:
- specific localities from where flora may be taken; and/or
- specific taxa that may be taken by particular licensees;
quotas to set an upper limit on the quantities of protected flora that may be taken or sold;
a conservation reserve system to provide 'in-situ' protection of taxa and habitats from exploitation and destruction; and
statutory protection of Declared Rare Flora to provide 'in-situ' protection of specific taxa from exploitation or destruction on all lands.
The application of these measures to the management of the commercial harvest is discussed in detail below.