Weeds as friends

Any questions or comments you have about Natural Sequence Farming processes. These could include general questions or ones about your personal problems.

We do not endorse any answers from anyone in this forum except Peter Andrews himself.

Please remember, Natural Sequence Farming has to be tailored for your specific problem and to follow general advice may create more problems for you.

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Shirley Henderson
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Weeds as friends

Post by Shirley Henderson » Thu May 31, 2007 6:41 pm

I am a newcomer to the industry of Conservation and Land Management. I have however been gardening and growing native plants for some time. I have worked as a bush regenerator and studied horticulture. I have really put in long long hours of research and study trying to understand this country of ours. Aftrer seeing Peter Andrews on Australian Story and reading his book I truly believe he has observed wisely and can put into action what he has seen working in the environment. He makes sense and it works. I really want to state how deeply I have been trained to rid weeds from our environment and am now trying hard to see them as helpers in repairing the damage created by man. I recently emailed Duane about African Olive which is a pretty serious weed overtaking my part of the country. The thing is small birds love it and we have an immense population of small birds spreading it. I love having the small birds and have asked many times what if we do get rid of this olive, wont we be destroying habitat and an excellent food source which is aiding these small creatures in survival. The usual response is well it wasnt here before and the birds will find something else to eat. How do we know that? It is my paid employment now to remove weeds and I try to manage areas assigned to me by keeping some weeds as habitat while trying to aid natives to come back. In some instances the soil is so changed that just more weeds keep coming back. My concern is that how far can we let a weed such as African Olive spread in our natural environment while trying to restore bushland. It may never be the same but what would happen to it if we did nothing? This is not farming but bush care and somewhere along the line these to practises shall meet. Any comment I am very interested to hear what other people think. Shirley
Last edited by Shirley Henderson on Tue Nov 13, 2007 6:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by duane » Sat Jun 02, 2007 8:39 pm

I am going to post something that was sent to me from Professor Haikai Tane regarding the role of plants restoring degraded landscapes and the role of biodiversity in pristine environments.

We have in this country removed nearly 2/3 of the original forest cover that was here when europeans arrived. In the last decade in Queensland alone has removed millions of hectares of native vegetation .

The debate needs to focus on 1. degraded landscapes and 2.pristine environments. Exotic plants have a role in the former whilst maintanance and biodiversity have a role in the latter.

Here is Professor Tanes comments on the native v. exotic debate:

As a 'bidgee boy" from the sixties - many a happy holiday was spent wandering the river banks, swmming and snorkling the river pools and watching the platypus at play from up near Cooma down to Burrenjuck . It was during these years - when I was studying honours biogeography at the ANU - that my ecological studies of rivers and floodplains began.

I note from the Bidgee Buzz undertones of anxiety about "exotics' in the river corridor. Research on riparian biota indicates there are proably greater grounds for concern about the phytotoxicity of Australian red gums! Please be aware that the International Convention on Biodiversity specifically embraces all biota. Since the 1968 UNESCO International Conference on "Use and Conservation of the Biosphere" in France, the UN position has remained unchanged:

"there is no fundamental difference between natural, wild or modified, sem-natural or developed, domesticated or purely artifical vegetations. The laws governing these ecosystems are identical"

When UN Agenda 21 was adopted by member states at Rio in 1992 - and subsequently became international law - the biodiversity concept was excluded from the key list of 27 principles defining sustainable development and environmental protection. Biodiversity is still only a convention because biologists have been unable to demonstate that there is a functional relationship between the Linnaen classification of species and environmental performance. It may come as a surprise to some that the Australian concept of native biodiversity is inconsistent with the international biodiversity convention. It is more about personal beliefs and conservation funding programs than the ecological integrity of watersheds and their environmental performance.

Peter Andrews has demonstrated clearly that the UNESCO position on vegetation, ecosystems and environmental performance is the safe and sound one. Arguably, willows are the world's premier riparian plants - they are used in every continent except Antarctica for riparian and stream restoration works. I have noted from my work in the River Murray, Billabong, "Bidgee and Shoalhaven watersheds that Australia willow communities are excellent nurse crops encouraging the natural regeneration of casuarina as well as providing prime habitat for water dragons, marsupial water rats and platypus; and from beneath the water perspective, willow root plates are veritable supermarkets of macroinvertebrates, yabbies and fish.

Nature does nothing uselessly noted Socrates, a fact worth pointing out to your readers in the Bidgee Buzz. You might also add that Nature is an equal opportunity employer - she does not discriminate on the basis of race, genera or species. That is a human failing. A few years ago, I was advised by the leaders of a German Parliamentary Delegation on Conservation and the Environment visiting New Zealand - while here they investigated "native biodiversity programs" - that in Germany they call native biodiversity "ecofascim" because it is based on the same nativist principles that underpinned Hitler's Fascism.

Now that Peter Andrews has shown Australians that exotics are indeed necessary for rehabilating Australian rivers and streams, as well as sustainable farming and ecoforestry, perhaps the Bidgee Buzz can take the lead and expose the "exotics are pests" mentality as a sadly misinformed ecocolonial myth doing more damage than good. It is far, far better to teach your community to observe and enjoy the exciting dance of ecosynthesis uniting native and exotic biota in new and improved riparian ecosystems.

Warm regards
Haikai Tane
Professor Haikai Tane
Director Watershed Systems
Twizel Aotearoa NZ

Shirley Henderson
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weeds and more weeds

Post by Shirley Henderson » Tue Nov 13, 2007 5:31 pm

I would love to hear from some of the land carers out there that are in the same position as I am. It is my job to remove invasive weeds from the environment and help restore native flora to re-establish in degraded reserves. I am learning much from my work and have to say that I take my hat off to Peter Andrews as I too can see what he is doing is the same thing I have been seeing with my own eyes. What I cant understand is why if exotic plants are construed as such a big problem then why are they still being sold in nurseries. If the future of our land is only to be planted with natives then they should only sell natives. Suburbia as much as farms need to protect what little wildlife and biodiversity that we have left. We are developing areas full of minor birds, magpies, butcherbirds, starlings and the like. The wildlife is missing out on their much needed grasslands for habitat and food and kikuyu and couch is everywhere. I think the local LGA's would be better off ridding the idea that lawns and mowing them are the way to go. This is outdated. Watering , lawns, washing cars and burning fuel to mow them is such a waste of time, resources and money. We are left with blocks of housing and bush corridors along the tops of hills. I am glad that they are leaving these but the protection of the waterways is not good enough and everywhere I go no-one dare plant a wetland plant for fear it may take over. I have asked many people how to address the lack of plants in our waterways and always get the same response, plants might grow into the drains and block them. They might take over or "CHOKE" the water way. They even employ machinery that comes and cleans it all out. Tis whole system needs to be fixed. Yet still the exotics go on selling while the weed opposers keep getting funded to remove them. Herbicides, machinery and physical removal seems like a waste of time when the exotics are continually being released. Peter has found a positive solution of combining exotics and natives focusing on the real problem of hydrology, fertility and all the other Natural Sequence Farming Principles mentioned. Farming and Landcare as in Wildlife reserves will have to cross paths eventually and it is important that we can join forces and work together. What is really lacking in urban areas is open grass land and wide spaces around waterways. Also the drainage problems of sewage and stormwater and all the rediculous chemicals poured into the water. This is where the authorities ought to be focusing there attention not on the farmers that might like to grow Willows and weeds. I see a future in what Peter is doing and I dont like what is happeing in urban areas. Sure we have to have housing but they are packing them in as if there is no space left in Australia! The catchment Management Authority is obviously bound by regulations but they need to be seriously reviewed. Can someone enlighten me as to wether or not this is happeing in regard to Peters work and for all the farmers that want to allow weeds to grow and construct leaky weirs. I too am bound by regulations and do not even know where to begin to change these. Can someone point me in the right direction if I want to put a leaky weir into a reserve?

Shirley Henderson
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A funny side to lawns

Post by Shirley Henderson » Tue Nov 13, 2007 5:37 pm

Imagine the conversation The Creator might have had with St. Francis on the subject of lawns:
God: Hey St. Francis, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there in the Midwest? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistle and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect "no maintenance" garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But all I see are these green rectangles.

St. Francis: It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers "weeds" and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

God: Grass? But it's so boring. It's not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, birds and bees, only grubs and sod worms. It's temperamental with temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

St. Francis: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. The begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

God: The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.

St. Francis: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it... sometimes twice a week.

God: They cut it? Do they then bail it like hay?

St. Francis: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

God: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

St. Francis: No Sir. Just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

God: Now let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

St. Francis: Yes, Sir.

God: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

St. Francis: You are not going to believe this Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

God: What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves form compost to enhance the soil. It's a natural circle of life.

St. Francis: You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

God: No. What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter and to keep the soil moist and loose?

St. Francis: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. The haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

God: And where do they get this mulch?

St. Francis: They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

God: Enough. I don't want to think about this anymore. Sister Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

Sister Catherine: "Dumb and Dumber", Lord. It's a real stupid movie about.....

God: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.

El Ojo Del Lago News
Guadalajara, Mexico

Shirley Henderson
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Post by Shirley Henderson » Mon Jan 14, 2008 9:03 am

Getting back to the topic of weeds. I was in the library the other day reading about them. I found that many of the native plants I am preserving through my work are considered pest species by farmers. So authorities instruct farmers to remove exotic weeds and Farmers are removing native species they see as pests. Pretty soon there will be not much left. Is this what has already happened?

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Post by duane » Sat Jan 19, 2008 8:19 pm

Nature does nothing uselessly !!!!

This point is all important to remember especially when it comes to the native vs exotic argument.....

The native point of view is myopic, I believe. It does not take into effect that almost 90% of the original vegetation that was here when eoropeans arrived has disappeared.

We have introduced more than 200 exotic animals....nearly all of our agriculture is based on exotic animals and exotic feeds.

I agree with the preservation value of remaining native vegetation BUT we aint ever going to return to the 1770 biodiversity and we are not going to restore and sustain our landscape with natives while we have animals and plants associated with agriculture for hundreds if not thousands of years.

We have in this country removed nearly 2/3 of the original forest cover that was here when europeans arrived. In the last decade in Queensland alone has removed millions of hectares of native vegetation .

The debate needs to focus on 1. degraded landscapes and 2.pristine environments. Exotic plants have a role in the former whilst maintanance and biodiversity have a role in the latter. If we can reconnect our waterways with their associated floodplains and rehydrate the landscape as Nature used to do many of our dormant natives will miraculously reappear.

Shirley Henderson
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Post by Shirley Henderson » Wed Jun 25, 2008 11:18 am

I heard a rumour lately and decide to do a bit of looking around to find out where it originated. Have a read of what I found!
Pasted from the internet.

You are here: Home > About DECC > Media releases

When is a weed not a weed?
The species Bidens pilosa, commonly known as cobblers peg or pitch-forks is widespread in eastern Australia and has long been regarded as an introduced weed species from South America.
Recent research from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney may change that perception.
Plant ecologist Doug Benson compiled a list of the plant species collected at Botany Bay in 1770 by Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander, the naturalists who accompanied James Cook on the Endeavour. Using an unpublished list of specimen material held at the British Museum together with previously unavailable specimens held at the National Herbarium of NSW, there is now a list of 132 plant species collected at Botany Bay in 1770.
Among the specimens are many species which still occur in remnant vegetation around Botany Bay. A particularly interesting record is a specimen of Bidens pilosa (the specimen is held at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney).
The next step in the discovery process may be DNA examination to identify the variation within Bidens pilosa populations within eastern Australia and in other parts of the world and to reexamine its status as a native or exotic species.
Media inquiries: Stevie King

I also wonder what those other unavailable specimens are?
It makes me question if anyone really knows what is native and what is introduced.

Shirley Henderson
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Post by Shirley Henderson » Wed Jun 25, 2008 11:43 am


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Post by duane » Thu Jun 26, 2008 9:02 pm


I would like to attempt to answer your post from Nov 07.

Dr Mary White DSc, PhD, in her book "Running Down-Water in a changing land" has said about the Australian environment:

"RUNNING DOWN: Water in a Changing Land gives a deep-time perspective to the story of the co-evolution of water resources, the environment and the animal and plant life it supports. It sets the scene for an understanding of the geological history of the continent, the past history and the modern status of its water systems, and the impact of European land use and activities on our two main life-support systems—water and soil. Sustainable management of our land and water resources can only be achieved if the ancient history of the continent is taken into account and the limitations set by this unique land itself are recognised.
RUNNING DOWN is thus a companion volume to Listen... Our Land is Crying, complementing it and expanding the big picture, explaining modern water-related problems against the prehistoric background. Exploration of the subject confirms that Australia is unique and that this ancient land has some of the oldest landscapes preserved anywhere on Earth as well as some of the most ancient drainage patterns. What comprises a river system in Australia is usually far removed from the accepted concept of a river in Europe. Many of our rivers occupy ancient valleys, incised by their ancestors multi-millions of years ago, or are superimposed on palaeoriver systems. Flat, poorly drained landscapes, and an inwardly-draining centre of the continent, have led to a vast accumulation of sediments, and of salt, and much of Australia comprises floodplains spread by ancestral rivers. The floodplains of our modern rivers are as essentially part of the river systems as are the channels and banks.

While the ancient history through geological time provides a background necessary for the understanding of the modern hydrology of the continent, the modern information gleaned from writings of explorers and pioneers on the status of rivers and landscapes at the time of European settlement establishes a benchmark against which changes due to human activities can be measured. It is surprising to find just how much change has in fact occurred.

Changes resulting from our land-use practices and our use of water resources have turned many rivers into drains. ( A river is a living ecosystem, a drain is simply a conduit which carries water through a landscape). Deep incision of stream beds; loss of chains of ponds or swamps in headwaters; loss of reedbeds; siltation and widening of channels; degradation of reaches downstream of dams and weirs; salination of river water; pollution with agricultural chemicals, sewage and industrial waste....; increased nutrients promoting algal blooms;over-exploitation for irrigation- an endless list of changes result from human activities. Many rivers including the Darling, are slowly dying. Groundwaters have been waantonly exploited without regard for the future.......

Unless the past history of the continent and the evolution of its hydrology are understood and taken into account, there is no hope of curing today's problems and achieving a situation which approaches sustainability of Australias water resources."

Peter Andrews has been trying to tell the Australian people about all of the above for more than 30 years.....the clock is now 1 minute past midnight.

Shirley, this is not me or Peter saying the above things. Dr White has 2 DSc's from 2 different uni's and she is one of our most respected scientists and authors on the evolution of Gondwanaland and Austalia. She is saying here we have in our ignorance dismantled the natural processes that used to keep our land hydrated. Our rivers and streams used to be choked wetlands. We removed these chokes of vegetation either manually or with machines or allowed stock to eat them out. Our drainage mentality turned a non-draining, hydrated landscape into a drained and dried out landscape with water stored above ground in dams allowed to evaporate with a loss of over 3 metres a year. All of the things you are prevented from doing (by legislation) is in fact working against the natural system that ran this place for millions of years.

That is why we are witnessing all the current problems....If we want to make a difference we need to change the current attitudes, practices and badly informed information on which much of these policy decisions have become legislated and bring them into line with the natural processes Mary White speaks of above.

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Post by Shirley Henderson » Fri Jul 04, 2008 6:41 pm

I am going to try and get that book! I am also going to keep writing letters and try to get this through to others. I am learning with a different mind now and am glad that I have been pointed in the right direction. Thanks again

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Post by duane » Fri Sep 05, 2008 1:14 pm

NSF has an entirely new approach to the management of weeds.

Unlike the Weeds CRC which is about to run workshops nominating 2800 garden plants they see as a potential threat to our unique environment.

The great majority of our unique environment has disappeared and land use/mismanagement has played a major role. The fact that these plants pose a potential threat and will take over it an utter nonsense.

Come to my garden
My garden grows:

Orange trees
lemon trees
apple trees
cherry trees
plum trees
almond trees
pecan trees
olive trees
buffalo grass
rye grass etc etc etc

THERE is not ONE native plant in my garden because unlike the koala next door, I cannot eat gum leaves or wattle blossom or waratah, pretty as they maybe. I evolved in a different plant/animal pathway.

I have chooks for meat and eggs, goats for milk and meat because all the roos round here were killed decades ago....so are we to remove EVERY exotic plant and introduced animal and reverse two hundred and twenty years of progress or do we decide that emu, crocodile and roo and macadamia nuts become the staple diet of 21C ozzies.

What a load of BS........

Science has neglected to include three very important considerations when it critiques the health of a landscape :
1. it ignores the green surface area i.e., areas covered by things that are green and growing AYR
2.the hydrology that promotes that green surface area and
3. the daily water cycle that supports the green surface area
All of the above should be the fundermantal basis used for making policy decisions before all this other nonsense is even talked about.

The short comings of so called scientific opion indicates
* people who have had access to the above information for >30 years and FAILED to look at the practical application of all this information and how it relates to the everyday decisions that are made about our environment have allowed billions of dollars of taxpayers money to be wasted and lost.

It is clear mistakes have been made in the past in failing to recognise the functions of the Australian landscape and the SOONER this is recognised we can plan for a better new future.

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Post by ColinJEly » Mon Sep 08, 2008 11:51 pm

As every good gardener will tell you, if you pull out a 'weed' you need to replace it with something straight away, or else another 'weed' will just grow to take its place. I used to work at a government research station (as an administrator not a technician). This was in the time of Premier Jeff Kennett. We could not complain about our budget because we didn't have one! I tried to convince the director to plant Salix alba var caerulia. He said the government was about removing willows not encouraging them. He wanted to know why I thought we should grow them. I told him 'cricket bats'. What else would you do with 60 acres of useless swampland? We could have been self funding and told the premier to stick his (non-existant0 budget where the sun don't shine! :-)

Shirley Henderson
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Friends of weeds

Post by Shirley Henderson » Tue May 05, 2009 10:09 am

Well, I have come a fair way with my new thinking about weeds. When I joined the forum, I was interested but narrow minded. I realise now that it does not matter if a plant is native or non native and that over time everything changes. When the first Australian plants were discovered and recorded the list was not necessarily the way it had always been or will be. So grow whatever you can and as long as your land is healthy, absorbs water, sustains life, native or otherwise, I think you have to be on the right track. In the land of bushcare heads and minds are securely closed to the idea of weeds being part of the landscape. In the land of organic farming, minds are open. In the minds of farmers that want to live a healthy sustainable life while they feed the many they are boxed in from all directions with either outdated or newly written legislation and regulation. In the minds of the Government I see a closed mentality that can only think of the economy and how much money can be made. The laws are aiming to control the harvesting of all water so they can sell it back to us. So, I have decided that yes, weeds are friends and every plant I learn about, be it native, non-native or of unknown true history, plants are totally our friends. Friends that you can rely on to tell the truth about our landscape. They are reliable with their facts and wiping them out only wipes out our chances of learning from them. So the silencing of plants or (so called weeds) is a BIG MISTAKE. The sooner we have support from Farmers, land managers, landcare, catchment management authorities, local government, ministers, scientists and the formerly misinformed and brainwashed the better. Past history is clear and Peter’s books expose the nonsense that has been believed unwittingly. I challenge any scientist or any of the above named to write in this forum and test your minds and knowledge against the knowledge that has been learned from Peter Andrews, Dr Mary White DSc, PhD, Dr. Jan Pokorny, Professor Haikai Tane, Maude Barlow, Duane Norris and the countless others that are sick of the money hungry destruction. From knowledge I have gained from both sides of the argument, I am clear and certain about where my support lies.
My last message is to the Prime Minister of Australia and I will be sure to send this on.
Shirley Henderson

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Post by duane » Wed May 06, 2009 12:59 pm

Etymologically, "weed" derives from the Old English word for "grass" or "herb," but during the Middle Ages the meaning has changed to indicate an undesirable plant that grows where it is not wanted, especially among agricultural plots. This has historically been the primary meaning of the word, although in the nineteenth century, American writers grew increasingly aware that calling a plant a "weed" was an arbitrary human judgment, as there is no natural category of weeds. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, a weed "is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered." Today, biologists tend to share that opinion, since many of the plants that are designated as weeds are, in fact, closely related to popular crops. Indeed, "weed" has fallen out of usage among biologists, although those who study agriculture still find the term useful in discussions of weed control and management.

Weedy plants generally share similar adaptations that give them advantages and allow them to proliferate in disturbed environments whose soil or natural vegetative cover has been damaged. Naturally occurring disturbed environments include dunes and other windswept areas with shifting soils, alluvial flood plains, river banks and deltas, and areas that are often burned. Since human agricultural practices often mimic these natural environments where weedy species have evolved, weeds have adapted to grow and proliferate in human-disturbed areas such as agricultural fields, lawns, roadsides, and construction sites.

The weedy nature of these species often gives them an advantage over more desirable crop species because they often grow quickly and reproduce quickly, have seeds that persist in the soil seed bank for many years, or have short lifespans with multiple generations in the same growing season. Perennial weeds often have underground stems that spread out under the soil surface or, like ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea), have creeping stems that root and spread out over the ground. A number of weedy species have also developed allelopathy, which is a chemical means to prevent the germination or growth of neighboring plants.

Warm Regards

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Post by Wingen_Miner » Thu May 07, 2009 8:39 am

I have chooks for meat and eggs, goats for milk and meat because all the roos round here were killed decades ago....so are we to remove EVERY exotic plant and introduced animal and reverse two hundred and twenty years of progress or do we decide that emu, crocodile and roo and macadamia nuts become the staple diet of 21C ozzies.

I find it crazy that 'native bushland' is considered the acceptable rehabilitation result but we still persist in 'culling' (not utilising) kangaroos because they eat feed and 'destroy' fences intended for our introduced animals.

Personally, i would prefer to see a wide variety of introduced plant species which can offer a greater human food source , and make the most of our native animal species which require far less 'husbandry' than the meat animals we keep currently.

There will always be a place for introduced animals of course (rabbit is another favourite of mine..... introduced, but as adapted as any roo), as there are so many niches to be filled. Biodiversity is a lot like business in that respect.

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