THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources Weed Management Branch has started a rigorous process of inspecting properties identified as having high risk gamba grass infestations.
If deemed necessary, property owners will now be forced to comply with orders to control gamba on their lots.
Gamba grass was initially introduced to the Northern Territory in the 1930s as a pasture grass and has proven to create high fuel loads that can lead to hot, intense fires that may place people and property in danger.
Weed Management Branch director Geri Lee said five major hot spots had been identified in the southern parts of the Darwin Rural area, and four smaller, denser hot spots in the Humpty Doo and Bees Creek area.
"Property owners are required by law to manage gamba grass growing on their properties,” Ms Lee said.
"For several years we have led a community awareness program regarding the management of gamba grass and prevention of its spread.
"We have now identified 'hot spots', where gamba presents the greatest risk to community safety, and will seek property owners' and occupiers' compliance with the Weeds Management Act.”
Under the Act, property owners and occupiers are required to manage or eradicate gamba grass on their property according to the zone in which the property is located.
The Weed Management Plan for Gamba Grass clearly articulates management requirements.
"We have conducted comprehensive aerial studies of Darwin and the rural area as far south as the Batchelor/Coomalie region.
"Data from the surveys was then assessed according to certain criteria which enabled us to identify key priority hot spots.”
Weed Management officers now plan to visit properties in the hot spots, to meet with the property managers and determine the best course of action.
If issued with an order, those property owners will have six weeks to comply with specified management requirements to avoid being fined.
"While it's the last resort, we can actually issue infringement notices or initiate or legal proceedings,” Ms Lee said.
"This exercise is about taking the threat of gamba grass seriously and protecting the community, especially those who are already investing in gamba grass management.
"Our number one priority is the safety of human lives and property and the time to act is now.
"Gamba grass is best treated when it is actively growing between November and April.
"Where management doesn't occur we see increased loads of dry and highly flammable grass in the next dry season.
"We encourage the community to contact us for advice and assistance and look out for the Gamba Action Vehicle as we inspect the gamba hot spots.”
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