By KIERAN FINNANE
Updated, 9.58am, 9 February, 2017.
After driving through the sea of buffel grass that is most of Alice Springs at present, my heart lifted at the sight of swathes of dead buffel and couch at Simpsons Gap. Not at the entrance to the park to be sure (see picture at bottom, taken opposite the entry station) but down at the gap itself.
Along the walking track down to the water a good effort has been made to fight back the invasive grasses that are increasingly taking hold of our landscape.
Does this mark a turn taken by the parks service to more rigorously combat the grasses in the magnificent Tjoritja West MacDonnell National Park?
According to Philip Cowan, Senior District Ranger with Parks and Wildlife (communicating through a media advisor) , “monitoring and control of weed species within the park is an ongoing process that is reviewed annually”.
The effort – by rangers, casual Indigenous staff and some volunteers – and resources going into weed control have “significantly increased” this summer following the big rains.
The “larger control area” and “kill rates” that I observed have resulted from the recent “extended period of optimal growing conditions” which has increased “the window of opportunity for spraying”.
In 2015-16 the parks service allocated around $52,000 to weed control across the whole of the NT.
On this year’s figure, Mr Cowan says it will “become clearer towards the end of the financial year. Operational budgets are flexible enough to allow for some reallocation of expenditure to where it is needed at the time, and we will have the opportunity to re-evaluate our priorities before the start of the new financial year which will cover the next growing period. Future expenditure will depend largely on any follow up rainfall.”