Once planted as a shade tree in many Kimberley communities, Neem (Azadirchata indica), is emerging as an insidious and highly invasive weed in the bush, harming the natural environment, agricultural production and cultural sites across the region and northern Australia.
In the Northern Territory, Neem is a Class B and Class C weed and is listed as a risk to biosecurity and agriculture management. In Queensland in 2016, authorities undertook an invasive plant risk assessment for the Neem and determined Neem spread as rapid. In Western Australia, Neem remains an undeclared weed and no assessment has been done.
In the Kimberley there are large knowledge and data gaps about Neem’s distribution, density and impacts, and funding for control projects to prevent further introduction or spread is difficult to secure.
In 2013, at a meeting of land management agencies to determine regional weed priorities, delegates ranked Neem among the top environmental weeds in the Kimberley.
In 2015, participants in the inaugural ‘Kimberley Weed Forum’ voted Neem the highest priority weed in the region. EK made the point that collective knowledge about the weed in the region must be shared and expanded.
What we have been doing
In 2016-2017, EK’s Kimberley Nature Project (KNP) managed the Sharing Knowledge to Tackle Kimberley Weed Priorities - Neem, Azadirchata indica project, which has:
- developed a Kimberley Neem Control Note with the Kimberley Weeds cards to promote community awareness about identification and control
- supported training for three ranger teams to remove hundreds of mature trees from three sites on country and to remove seedlings the following wet season
- evaluated six Neem control projects to measure effectiveness and ensure improvement through learning
- with other Kimberley weed control operators, collated Neem distribution data and developed a more comprehensive distribution map
- ran an online community survey to better understand Neem management in the Kimberley, to which 93 people provided quantitative and qualitative data
- developed and presented the Interim Kimberley Neem Management Plan, which collates mapping data and other information, presents case studies and makes recommendations.
What we are doing now
KNP is making sure that the Kimberley community, government and land-owners and managers such as pastoralists and Aboriginal ranger groups are aware of and have access to the Plan.
In 2017-2018, we are working with Oongalkada (Udialla Springs) community and the Nyikina Mangala Rangers to map a sizeable Neem population on their country. We have started control works and are developing recommendations for weed management and natural and cultural heritage protection.
In the future
We are seeking more funding to:
- survey, map and control Neem in significant eco-cultural areas with ranger and community groups
- trial new control methods with improved safety (environmental and human), efficiency and cost-effectiveness
- convene an annual Kimberley Weed Forum to develop weed priorities and promote more knowledge sharing and collaboration among weed operators
- raise awareness and educate the nursery industry and wider regional community about all aspects of Neem management, from early identification to control.
- advocate for the WA Government to undertake a weed risk assessment for Neem and for it to be listed under the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management Act (2007)
- establish a Northern Australian taskforce to advocate for Neem’s listing as a Weed of National Significance
- with the CSIRO, close the knowledge gaps about the harmful environmental, economic and socio-cultural affects of Neem in Australia.
We are grateful for support at various stages of the project from the State NRM WA and the Australian Government National Landcare Program.
Links to interviews and media
For more information, contact
Louise Beames - firstname.lastname@example.org