An innovative approach to controlling the noxious weed tropical soda apple through community-based social marketing has helped the Clarence Valley Council secure a local government excellence in the environment award.
Tropical soda apple is a class one state prohibited plant that can grow up to two metres in height with broad-based, straight, cream-coloured prickles up to 12mm long.
Together with the NSW Department of Primary Industries, the council is using community-based social marketing to increase the commitment of landholders to control the weed.
The council’s senior natural resource management officer, Reece Luxton, said education and awareness programs about the weed and its control were targeted and there was a focus on improved monitoring and evaluation of tropical soda apple management in the Clarence Valley.
“Pilot programs have demonstrated immediate improvements to the tropical soda apple control program,” he said.
Mr Luxton said the program was developed after a meeting of stakeholders in September 2015 where gaps in the implementation of the tropical soda apple strategy 2010-2015 were identified.
“Some landholders with infestations on their properties were not meeting the requirements of the Noxious Weeds Act, and subsequently making it difficult for weeds officers to engage with them about the importance of the control program,” he said.
Community-based social marketing is a behavioural sciences framework for fostering sustainable behaviour change. It is being trialled by NSW DPI in conjunction with the Clarence Valley Council as a method of increasing tropical soda apple control by landholders.
According to Mr Luxton, insights from the project have informed a ground-breaking behaviour change strategy, which is the first application of this established framework, worldwide, to a weeds issue.
The control, checking and cattle management actions required by landholders have been prioritised and described clearly and concisely as:
• controlling plants by digging or pulling, cut-stump or spraying;
• removing and disposing of fruit and plant material;
• checking control sites for regrowth;
checking the rest of the property for new plants;
• holding cattle for six days; and,
• restricting grazing from infested areas.
Mr Luxton was accompanied by Clarence Valley Mayor, Jim Simmons, at the awards ceremony in Sydney last week.