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  • Crispin Till

    Email Crispin Till

    Traditional owners lead the way to stop pest plant


    Cassowary Coast Regional Council is working with traditional owners and other agencies to help control the spread of a highly invasive exotic shrub that could devastate the region's World Heritage Rainforest and agriculture industry.

    An infestation of Koster's Curse (Clidemia hirta) has been found in Wooroonoonan National Park in the Misty Mountains and local authorities are worried about its potential to spread and impacts on the region.

    Landowners and residents in the Lower South Johnstone catchment are asked to keep a watch for this aggressive pest plant that has the potential to reproduce 1000 berries a year containing 700,000 seeds.

    These can be easily spread by water, animals, birds, humans and machinery, with Councillor Jeff Baines saying early detection and immediate action was essential to controlling the pest plant.



    The weed grows to about 2 metres and forms dense thickets that can smother agricultural crops, pastures and native vegetation.

    It has had serious economic impact on countries with a similar climate to North Queensland, including Hawaii, Fiji and Indonesia.
     
    Cassowary Coast Regional Council, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS), the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Tablelands Regional Council and Traditional Owners Environmental Service are conducting a combined operation to contain the infestation and limit the risk of spreading to other areas.
     
    The council has secured money to help stop the pest plant from spreading through the Queensland Feral Pest Initiative with support from its Natural Asset Management Advisory Committee (NAMAC) partners.
     
    "This funding will allow us to focus on cleaning up the core infestation and high-risk spread areas over the next three years," Cr Baines said.
     
    The work will be carried out by the Traditional Owners Environmental Service, which is owned by Dugulburra Mamu man Brendan Purcell.

    A Council officer said TOES had completed weed eradication projects in partnership with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, QPWS, Terrain NRM, local government and landholders.

    "Collaborative arrangements enable traditional owners to care for their country and to be involved in the management and presentation of its values," she said.

    NAMAC stakeholders will conduct extended surveys surrounding the core infestation area to ensure the full extent has been captured and a long-term management plan put in place.
     
    The council officer said the distinctive characteristics of Koster's Curse were five longitudinal veins running down the leaves and stems covered in reddish-brown hairs.

    The shrub produces small white flowers and dark purple mature berries.
     
    Koster's Curse is a restricted invasive plant under the Biosecurity Act 2014. It must not be released into the environment, given away or sold without a permit. All sightings must be reported to Biosecurity Queensland.