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Alarm at arum lily spread

Environmentalists say the Capes region is experiencing its worst ever proliferation of the toxic arum lily less than a year after the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions abandoned attempts to eradicate it.

In January, the Times reported efforts to control the arum lily and 14 other invasive weed species had officially been abandoned.

South West environmental groups and members of Parliament slammed the move and say the fallout is now evident.

South West MLC and shadow environment minister Steve Thomas told the Times the State Government was “simply giving up managing weeds” and “leaving private landholders to carry the can”. “I have taken this issue to Parliament repeatedly over a decade and the lack of action has got worse, not better,” Mr Thomas said.

“Anybody who has their eyes open in the South West can see the proliferation of the toxic weed arum lily, and I expect it to get far worse over time … because now the only action will come from private landholders and those few community groups that are active.”

The spread of arum lilies in the South West is prevalent after winter rains.The spread of arum lilies in the South West is prevalent after winter rains.
Camera IconThe spread of arum lilies in the South West is prevalent after winter rains.Picture: Therese Colman

Busselton-Dunsborough Environment Centre acting convenor Alison Cassanet acknowledged agencies needed money to conduct eradication activities but lilies remained a significant issue so it “doesn’t make sense” to give up.

“They’re the agency that is cast with protecting our land,” she said.

The declared pest, introduced from South Africa, is toxic to animals and chokes native vegetation.

It is a prized flower in many parts of the world but is a major bio-security threat to the Australian environment.

South West Catchments Council threatened species program manager Dr Brian Chambers said it was likely the lily would continue to spread but to completely eradicate it would cost “hundreds of millions of dollars”.

“Arum lily is present over thousands of hectares of public and private land,” he said.

“Many individuals and groups, including some government departments, are still working to limit the impact of the arum lily on our environment and these efforts should be encouraged and supported.”

Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development invasive species acting director Victoria Aitkin told the Times there were no plans to review the status or reassign control activities but the department would continue to provide help.

“Recognised biosecurity groups can apply for funding to support control efforts of declared pests,” she said.

“Local groups … are well placed to identify and prioritise the declared pests in their area that require management and control.”

Nature Conservation executive officer Caroline Hughes said the group’s staff had collaborated with the DBCA to co-ordinate a management plan for the region but removing the weed from control activities “further dilutes the management options available to control what is a high priority weed in the region”.

“Previously, landowners were required to manage arum lily to reduce the size of infestation and prevent the spread of the weed,” she said. “It is our understanding that the recent review by DPIRD, there are now no management requirements for the species.”

Ms Hughes said the group’s management plan with DBCA was near completion and would provide direction on the issue for the next 10 years.

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