Researchers examine different approach to weed management

Photo: ADAM WRIGHT

A SURVEY of rural landowners in northern Shoalhaven aims to explore in detail how people think about, learn about and what they do about weeds in socially diverse landscapes.

The survey is part of a University of Wollongong study – called Land, People and Weeds: natural resource management in changing rural communities – being conducted by Associate Professor Nicholas Gill of the Department of Geography and Sustainable Communities and Associate Professor Laurie Chisholm from the School of Earth and Environmental Science.

“What we are interested in is places with treechangers – so places where farmers have been selling up and there are more landowners on smaller blocks of land,” Mr Gill said.

“It’s more socially diverse, not just farmers with relatively homogenous interests.”

He said weeds were interesting because of the lack of agreement about what constituted one.

“What is a weed for one person is not necessarily for someone else,” he said.

“And weed management often relies on collective action.”

So he said the study was interested in learning about weeds and weed management in areas where there were people with different interests – what Mr Gill terms lifestylers as opposed to traditional farmers.

“A lot of farmers are interested in pasture weeds – fireweed, giant Parramatta grass – whereas lifestylers may not be worried about that,” he said.

“They may have more of an interest in conservation and restoration – fireweed perhaps but more environmental weeds which may cause problems for restoring their patch of bush.”

He said treechangers or lifestylers appeared to have a more intensive, or up close and personal approach to weed management.

“They are out there restoring bush, digging things out by hand,” he said.

“But we don’t know much about that.”

Mr Gill said researchers were interested in seeing whether this meant lifestylers would adopt a more collaborative approach to weed management, informally with neighbours or perhaps through groups like Landcare.

Mr Gill said the university had already conducted weed studies in the Kiama local government area and was a few months into a study in Bega.

Around 1500 surveys for northern Shoalhaven residents have been delivered over the past couple of weeks, with a few areas yet to be covered.

He said he hoped to have surveys returned within the next four weeks. 

“Then the rest of this year and into next year, we hope to be doing interviews which take more time,” he said.

“We like to really talk to people in detail about why they do things – there are some things you can’t capture in a survey.”

Mr Gill said he hoped the results of the study could be used to help the organisations and groups who work with landowners to make decisions about weed management. 

“And also to get landowners thinking about how they might collaborate.”

CONSTANT BATTLE: Fireweed grows in front of a sign calling for it be controlled.

CONSTANT BATTLE: Fireweed grows in front of a sign calling for it be controlled.

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