Long-awaited funding to prevent the spread of deadly plant disease dieback in the Fitzgerald River National Park might have come too late, according to concerned community groups.
The Dieback Working Group and Friends of Fitzgerald River National Park have called for long-term funding solutions after the State Government announced last week South Coast Natural Resource Management would receive $3 million to combat the disease.
The Dieback Working Group, set up to provide advice and support to local government and natural resource management groups, had criticised the State Government for neglecting the issue.
“The newly announced dieback funding is a step in the right direction, but dieback funding needs to be sustainable,” DWG chairman Dr Ian Colquhoun said.
“We need an ongoing funding program for the long term because the issue of dieback is with us forever.
“Short-term funding measures aren’t the answer.”
Regarded as one of the State’s biggest threats to biodiversity, Phytophthora dieback currently affects 40 per cent of plant species in the South West.
Three different outbreaks of dieback have been detected in Fitzgerald River National Park this year and there are concerns the disease could spread further. The park is considered one of the world’s most important ecological areas.
“Unfortunately it is too late for many areas, for example dieback is rife in the Stirling Ranges and the vegetation there is being annihilated on a massive scale,” Dr Colquhoun said.
Friends of the Fitzgerald River National Park president Anne Gadsby said a year had passed since the last funded operation had finished.
“It is a belated step in the right direction, but as someone else has pointed out, funding needs to be consistent,” Ms Gadsby said.
“The difficulty we see is that they will not have the authority to implement any of the changes needed. DEC has the authority to close roads within the parks.
“The serious challenge will be to persuade shires to implement the changes needed to prevent the spread of dieback.”
The Department of Environment and Conservation closed the Fitzgerald Inlet track in April, because they believed this was the only viable option to prevent the disease from spreading.
Unauthorised vehicles had been blamed for spreading the disease, with fences and bollards moved to access the tracks to popular fishing spots.
South Coast NRM and DEC declined to comment.