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Reg Kidd - resident and ratepayer - is not at all happy with the green scene

Reg Kidd explaining the weed situation. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

By Peter Holmes

Former mayor Reg Kidd is now a private citizen.

There is talk he may throw his hat into the ring for the state seat of Orange next year, but he says that's all it is. Talk. At this point. For now. Who knows what the future holds?

At any rate, right now he is just Reg Kidd, resident and ratepayer, and as such he has the same right as any other ratepayer to have a say.

Kidd has a thing about weeds. He puts in numerous days and thousands of dollars every spring and summer trying to keep them off his holdings. When he's of a mind he might also have a go at some of the weeds on council land.

I meet him on the Old Forbes Road, and clamber into his battered old ute.

He wants to show me the dire weed situation first hand.

He drives along slowly, pointing out the endless swathes of fruit trees (plums, apples, blackberries), biddy bush and St John's Wort.

Former mayor Reg Kidd is not happy with the weed situation in Orange. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

He points across to private land.

"See there? You can't see any weeds. Because they have gotten rid of them."

He swivels around to point out the properties with luxury homes that would sell for millions of dollars. Again, the weeds have been dealt with.

In between these two points are two things - road, and land. And the land, frankly, is a bit of a shambles. But then, this is the countryside.

Nobody doubts that the heady mix of sunshine, heat and rain across recent months has been akin to mainlining the local flora with a jug of Mother.

Covid has also no doubt played a role in schedules. Keeping up must be a nightmare.

But as Kidd drives, he points out how long it would have taken for some of these weeds to grow into trees. And beside these trees you can see smaller versions of the same thing.

So, what is Kidd's beef with a few hundred thousand weeds?

After all, as he says, weeds are just plants or trees that are out of place. They're not evil or untrustworthy, they just don't belong where they've ended up.

There are two main issues, he says.

First, they are scrappy and an eyesore.

Second, and more importantly, Kidd argues that they represent a risk to biosecurity.

"There are a lot of fruit trees or feral trees you can see here, and the problem with them is that they can be a biosecurity risk in the area," he says.

"You can have fruit that is not sprayed that develops various fungal diseases or [attracts] insect pests."

If the diseases and the pests stayed within their lane the risk wouldn't be so great. But they don't, Kidd says.

Seeds are picked up by the wind, and birds and foxes eat the fruits and then poop out the results wherever they choose. Cross-contamination with an orchard or other primary producer becomes a potentially major issue, he says.

Kidd says that all types are of land owners, whether they be private or public, are obliged by law to ensure they keep the weeds in their patch under control.

Reg Kidd surveys weeds in Orange. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

It's not unreasonable to ask why Kidd is having a gripe about weeds now, given his decades of service in local government. "But hang on," I say at one point. "You were around a long time - why didn't you do anything about it?"

"I did," he replies.

"I've always said control of roadside weeds, we have a duty to do it, local government is responsible.

"You have to make sure you're doing your own shop before you're telling everyone else what to do."

But couldn't he have put pressure on council staff?

"No, no, no, no - only the CEO or the general manager is responsible."

We drive on and Kidd slows to show me an area where people have dumped rubbish, including dead swine.

"Young fellas been out piggin'," he says by way of explanation, though I remain in the dark as to why someone on such an adventure wouldn't simply leave the pigs where they were felled - the transportation seems like a lot of extra effort, but Kidd is off again, talking weeds, and there is no time to ask.

Reg Kidd shows the seeds on some weeds. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

Local Councils are responsible for enforcing weed legislation, however finding enough money in budgets to hire enough crews to deal with all weeds could mean less services elsewhere.

According to Orange City Council, "this includes activities such as conducting weed inspections on public and private property; inspecting and controlling weeds in high risk pathways and sites; providing education, training and resources for both the public and staff in relation to weed management; administering and ensuring compliance with any of the above regulatory tools; responding to breaches of the Act; notifying and reporting on weed activities to the Biosecurity Information System (BIS)."

This activity happens under the umbrella of the Biosecurity Act 2015, which replaced the Noxious Weed Act 1993 in July 2017.

Council also states on its website: "A commitment to biosecurity will protect the economy, environment and community from the negative impacts of pests, diseases and weeds.

"It is vital for the health, wellbeing and prosperity of the region.

"The Central Tablelands Regional Strategic Weed Management Plan focuses on managing weeds to improve the region’s biosecurity.

"Our vision is to protect the Central Tablelands region’s environment, landscape, livelihood, cultural and lifestyle values from weeds by strengthening the sustainability of the natural environment, primary industries, and local communities in the region."


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