Longreach Weed Drone
Longreach Weed Drone

Noxious weed spreads as pollies fight over funds

A HIGHLY noxious weed native to Africa is spreading through western Queensland as state and federal politicians squabble over a $10m war chest created to eradicate the threat.

The funding stoush over a $10 million war chest to battle prickly acacia has created an unlikely alliance between farmers and environmentalists calling for an end to the impasse.

Both groups are desperate to manage the weed, which is native to Africa, with AgForce and the Pew Charitable Trust both claiming it could devastate western Queensland's wildlife and pastoral industries.

Former Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud says the Federal Government has cut a cheque of $5 million to fight prickly acacia.
Former Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud says the Federal Government has cut a cheque of $5 million to fight prickly acacia.

On March 29, the then Federal Environment Minister, David Littleproud, and Queensland Environment Minister Mark Furner put out a joint press release agreeing to each put in $5 million to fight the weed.

But arguments have broken out about exactly what was promised with Mr Furner saying the Federal Government had actually committed to match an existing Queensland Government fund for tackling weeds and pest issues including but not exclusively tied to prickly acacia.

But Mr Littleproud said that was ridiculous because they had both signed off on the release, clearly stating that they would each contribute a further $5 million to the fund.

"We'll cut our cheque and not politicise the misery of these farmers any further," he said.

"The time for politicians being tricky and convenient with the truth is over and if Mr Furner can't be honest then the Queensland public will make their mind up on his government at the next election."

Agriculture Minister Mark Furner says he never promised $5 million to exclusively fight prickly acacia, a weed introduced from Africa.
Agriculture Minister Mark Furner says he never promised $5 million to exclusively fight prickly acacia, a weed introduced from Africa.

Pew Charitable Trust Queensland manager Fiona Maxwell said the risk to the environment was becoming more severe the longer the standoff went on.

"Millions of seedlings are now emerging, particularly in the Diamantina river system," Ms Maxwell said.

"Left unchecked this could become an environmental disaster putting large areas of western Queensland at risk.

"This noxious tree grows rapidly into large thorny thickets. It chokes out native grasses vital to native wildlife and the grazing industry and significantly degrades our waterways.

AgForce general president Georgie Somerset said the funding squabble threatened to compound a flood disaster into a weed disaster.

"The State Government acknowledges the threat that prickly acacia poses to the environment and to agriculture but are prepared to allow this crisis to worsen over what is a relatively small investment of resources," she said.

LNP agriculture spokesman Tony Perrett said Mr Furner had misled Queenslanders by failing to front up with the money in the budget.

"This is the worst kind of political treachery," he said.

"To promise something to those in need and then weasel your way out is an absolute disgrace."