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 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 EK’s 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.
In 2017 EK worked with weed control operators, Aboriginal rangers, government, community and others to collate knowledge about Neem in the Kimberley and produce the Interim Kimberley Neem Management Plan.
In the Northern Territory, Neem is a Class B and Class C weed and is listed as a risk to biosecurity and agricultural 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 remained an undeclared weed.
In 2018, industry, local government, biosecurity, Aboriginal and conservation groups rallied in support of the Kimberley Rangelands Biosecurity Association’s application to list Neem as a declared pest under the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management Act (2007).
In August 2019, it was announced that the application had been successful and Neem was declared a pest under the Act.
What has been done:
In 2016–17, EK’s Kimberley Nature Project (KNP) managed the Sharing Knowledge to Tackle Kimberley Weed Priorities — Neem, Azadirachta 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
In 2018/19 KNP have been trialling innovative methods for controlling Neem and other woody weeds in the Kimberley with Yawuru Rangers and community members. The new capsule technology has great potential to improve the safety, effectiveness and efficiency of woody-weed control in remote areas.
In 2019/20 we are working with stakeholders to hold regular Kimberley weed network meetings, communicate regional weed news via email, web and print media and host the second Kimberley Weed Forum in 2020.
KNP is making sure that the Kimberley community, government and landowners and managers, such as pastoralists and Aboriginal ranger groups, are aware of and have access to the 2017 Interim Neem Management Plan for the Kimberley and other useful materials, including our ‘How to’ guides and instructional video.
In the Future
In the Kimberley there are still large knowledge and data gaps about Neem’s distribution, density and impacts, and we continue to seek funding for projects to:
- survey, map and control Neem with ranger and community groups in significant eco-cultural areas
- expand the trials of new control methods with improved safety (environmental and human), efficiency and cost-effectiveness
- convene the annual Kimberley Weed Forum to develop weed priorities and promote more skills exchange, 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
- 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 - [email protected]