In Tasmania we are extremely lucky. Our isolation and a history of careful management have kept our environment in a near-pristine condition, free from many of the pests and pathogens that have devastated other parts of the world (a pathogen is something that can cause disease).
Of course we have our share of problems – gorse infestations have cost millions, feral animals harm our landscapes and wildlife, and some of our fresh waterways contain European carp – although generally speaking Tasmania is one of the ‘least weedy’ places in the world.
But there are pressing threats to our environment that could eclipse anything that has happened before.
There’s a fungus called Chytrid, already present in eastern and northern Tasmania and on the margins of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, that threatens to wipe out our native frogs, a key link in our ecological food chain. Knocking at our door from New Zealand is an algae that chokes rivers so badly that whole waterway systems effectively die.
Its common name is ‘rock snot’, which might tell you a little about what it’s like. If these pests take hold our environment will never be the same again. Our special places will be unrecognisable. Perhaps worst of all, Tasmania will lose its special status as a pristine place, which has huge knock-on effects for our tourism and primary industries.
On the other hand, if we are seen to be maintaining our clean-green image then imagine what an advantage that will give our export economy.
So much at risk
We are already doing so much to protect our natural environment.
Our biologists are carefully monitoring the pests and pathogens, we have extensive weed eradication programs in place, and our quarantine procedures are second to none.
The trouble is, it only takes one careless act, one person in the wrong place, one drop of water even, to bring all our efforts to nothing.
The sole of a walking boot, a dirty vehicle chassis, or a contaminated pair of waders can carry one of these harmful hitchhikers somewhere it just shouldn’t be.
Check, Clean, Dry
So we need your help. In the same way that you wipe your feet before you enter a house, or wash your hands before you eat, we need you to consider your ‘environmental hygiene’ when you’re out and about.
It’s actually very easy to do the right thing, but it depends a little on the kind of activity you’re doing, whether that’s fishing, bushwalking, four-wheel driving or kayaking.
The good news is that the general idea is reflected in our slogan, CHECK CLEAN (DISINFECT) DRY; check for any source of contamination (soil, water, plant material), clean your gear, and dry it thoroughly to deprive the nasties of the moisture they need to survive.
Drying is often tricky in Tasmania – especially with gear like neoprene waders – which is why we’ve included the ‘disinfect’ step. If there’s any doubt, we ask that you treat your gear with F10, a biologically-safe veterinary disinfectant available from NRM South.
Protection is also a simple matter of planning where you go so that you’re not unintentionally spreading nasties from ‘dirty’ areas into clean ones. If you’ve been to a high-risk area, don’t go somewhere else unless you take precautions.
The more people who do the right thing, the less chance there is of a damaging incursion of a pest, weed or pathogen. And if a problem does arise, if it isn’t too widespread it will be easier to manage.