MATTHEW JONES & OWEN SCRIVENER
Western Australian botanists say recreational vehicle use across the state’s Southwest is responsible for the spread of dieback.
Phytophthora cinnamomi, deadly to many native plants which house vulnerable native fauna, has infested large areas of bushland and is quickly making its way through metropolitan Perth.
President of the Friends of Lightning Swamp John Williams said use of four-wheel drive and other off-road vehicles in the Noranda reserve is to blame for the rapid increase in the prevalence of the incurable plant disease.
“This is an area that was regularly visited by four-wheel-drives and motorbikes,” Mr Williams said at the swamp today.
“People in four-wheel-drives would even camp in these areas.”
Fences and signs erected by the Friends of Lightning Swamp has reduced damage to the bushland, but it has taken almost a decade to curb irresponsible recreational bush driving.
Research Associate at Murdoch University’s Department of Biological Sciences, Bill Dunstan said recent mapping conducted by the Department of Parks and Wildlife showed the extent of dieback in the Southwest had reached the 1 million hectare mark.
“In the Perth hills area there is pretty bad infestation,” Dr Dunstan said.
“But on the Swan coastal plain with the banksia woodlands there are some areas of value that are well and truly infested.”
Dr Dunstan said areas of Kings Park and Whiteman Park have pockets of diseased vegetation.
He said attempts to control outbreaks were limited by funding restrictions.
Vice Chairman of the WA 4WD Association Adrian Szentessy said his group works with the Department of Parks and Wildlife to promote responsible four-wheel driving.
He said the association has no jurisdiction in controlling the behaviour of unaffiliated drivers.
“You’re going to get bad apples in every batch,” Mr Szentessy said.
“There’s a stigma against four-wheel drivers.
“Four-wheel drivers are portrayed as red-neck bogans.
“Unfortunately, we can’t control everybody and it’s the minority that create this stereotype.”
Dr Dunstan said the only way to slow the spread of dieback was to educate the public.
“Outdoor recreation types just need to be aware of hygiene and do the right thing,” he said.
“If there are wash down facilities they need to wash down.
“If a sign says do not enter, then do not enter.”
Mr Williams said strong support from the City of Bayswater and the Lotteries Commission had enabled his group to continue managing dieback in the Lightning Swamp Bushland.
“I think a lot more support from State Government is needed to make our fight more effective,” he said.
WA Environment Minister Albert Jacob was contacted today (Saturday) but was not available for comment.