DEC district staff undertake on-ground administration, monitoring and management. Monitoring and management of the flora industry considers the industry as part of the integrated management of multiple land use on lands that the Department manages where harvesting is permitted.
A standard questionaire is available to district DEC officers dealing with the flora industry, to guide them in their day-to-day monitoring of pickers. This form includes such questions as the names and flora licence numbers of the pickers, taxa being harvested, quantity of flora taken, area in which operations occur, the name of the dealer to whom flora will be sold, and any other relevant observations on picker activities.
District officers are required to be familiar with picking practices and the major commercial flora taxa in their areas. Regional or District reference flora voucher specimen collections are maintained which have specimens representing the major commercially exploited and rare or threatened taxa within the Region/District. These collections may be made available to flora pickers to assist with identifications.
District staff provide information on commercial taxa distribution and quantities for the compilation of records that assist in determining sustainable picker numbers and harvest levels, and numbers of pickers, for allocated blocks under the endorsements system. These data are used in conjunction with information supplied by pickers in flora returns to determine quotas, where applicable.
DEC field officers are responsible for monitoring picking operations and reporting any possible breaches of licence conditions or legislation relating to flora harvesting. The enforcement of these provisions is the responsibility of a network of Wildlife Officers located throughout Western Australia (see section 6.4 for Role of Wildlife Officers). Any activity suspected of breaching the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950, the Wildlife Conservation Regulations 1970 or licence conditions is referred to a Wildlife Officer for investigation and subsequent court action by the Department if appropriate. Flora industry activities that are observed which may lead to non sustainable harvesting are reported by the District office to Head Office for use in defining management and research needs for the industry.
District offices are encouraged to submit annual reports on the status of the industry within their District, addressing inter alia illegal activities, proposals for management and research, and administrative issues. Reporting activity is related to the extent of flora harvesting activity within a District, and the degree of management issues identified by the District officers. These reports cover the preceding calendar year's flora industry activities. District reports are compiled and used for improving management of the flora industry.
District staff (other than Wildlife Officers, see below) do not have authority to enter private land without permission to undertake flora industry inspections. They may, however, request permission to undertake inspections to confirm the details of a Commercial Producer’s or Nurseryman’s Licence, or to inquire as to the flora returns for such licences. Should a land owner refuse permission for an inspection, the DEC may hold the issue or re-issue of a licence, pending such an inspection being granted.
6.3.1 Verification of Export Permit Applications
Wildlife Officers and other DEC staff may also investigate applications for export permits where requested by DSEWPaC. Such investigations may be carried out to verify the details stated by an applicant on an export permit application, such as the source of the plant specimens (location) or the method of harvesting (artificial propagation or wild-harvest). Such investigations may be instigated for protected flora, as well as for Australian native plants that are not native to WA, and may involve activities on Crown or private land. The DEC may recommend the rejection of an application to export flora based on the outcome of such an investigation, including if permission to enter private property is not granted. It is noted that there are severe penalties under the EPBC Act for making false or misleading statements on export permit applications.
6.4 Role of Wildlife Officers
Wildlife Officers have statutory appointment under the Conservation and Land Management Act 1984, with powers defined under that Act and the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950, which includes statutory authority over wildlife management matters on private property, including the harvesting for sale of, and dealing in, protected flora. Wildlife Officers are located at DEC’s Head Office, and at each DEC Regional office and some District offices. Central coordination and support of Wildlife Officers is provided through DEC’s Nature Protection Branch. The primary role of the Wildlife Officers is to ensure compliance with the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 and the Wildlife Conservation Regulations 1970, including picking licence conditions.
Wildlife Officers have accumulated a substantial amount of flora industry data from field surveys and patrols, licensing information and the findings of research officers. Essential information is also acquired through liaison with flora dealers and pickers. Knowledge of picker activities, market conditions, identification and seasonal development of commercially exploited taxa and factors such as fire and regeneration, provide Wildlife Officers with information on when and where particular taxa are likely to be harvested. Effort is directed seasonally and shifts accordingly.
Field operations may be active or reactive. Wildlife Officers liaise with flora industry representatives and inspect dealers' premises, checking flora on hand and the dealers' records, which may result in subsequent investigations. Having determined the need for a patrol based on seasonal factors and locations known to be targeted by pickers, Wildlife Officers develop patrol plans as necessary. Alternatively, patrols may be planned in response to specific complaints or information about an alleged illegal activity. Wildlife Officers may check for unlicensed pickers, check pickers for compliance with licence conditions, check prohibited picking areas, check protected flora occurrence on private property, or investigate the sale of flora to flora dealers at their premises. Such field inspections may occur on Crown or private land, depending on the nature of information received and the conservation issues pertinent to the area.
Wildlife Officers monitor picker activity, as well as the status and condition of commercially harvested taxa, in the course of their fieldwork. Because of the nature of their duties, Wildlife Officers are able to monitor taxa and populations from year to year and from area to area. Additionally, information from the FIDMS is available to Wildlife Officers to identify taxa that are being harvested in their areas, and highlight any causes for concern, such as the commencement of harvest or increases in the harvest of certain taxa, including taxa that are restricted to private property as a management strategy. Such information is used to formulate inspection patrols to ensure that the conservation of the taxa or their habitat or associated ecosystems is not being compromised by harvest activity. Feedback on taxa and picker activities is provided to Head Office and management recommendations are made as a result of this monitoring.
At the conclusion of such field work, a patrol report and any breach reports are submitted to the officer's supervisor for processing.
Wildlife Officers are also encouraged to submit annual reports on the status of the industry within the area they are stationed, addressing inter alia illegal activities. These reports cover the preceding calendar year.
District and Regional officers, on completion of a course in law enforcement, as described below, may be issued with a wildlife officer authority. These officers support the functions of the appointed Wildlife Officers.
6.4.1 Law enforcement training and operations procedures
All DEC personnel involved in the management of the commercial flora industry are required to know the relevant parts of the Conservation and Land Management Act 1984, the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 and their associated Regulations. Training on this legislation, general legal principles, gathering and presentation of evidence, and court attendance is provided to all DEC field staff through an accredited training course. Wildlife Officers receive more detailed and extensive ‘on the job’ training in respect of the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950 and legal procedures.