Chapter Twelve — Mr Spackman and the snakes
Mr Spackman and the snakes
The very early settlers were great law-makers.
—G. M. Thomson
Very early in the history of the Colony, the legislators devised rules to cope with the flood of plant and animal introductions. Once pests arrived they increased rapidly, often more rapidly than the settlers could combat them, so it was thought necessary to take legislative action to keep them under control. In many cases the early laws were an utter failure, but, undeterred, the legislators busied themselves devising constant amendments without any improvement in the pest situation. With the advantage of hindsight it seems obvious that the settlers were already doing whatever they could to eradicate pests, and no amount of regulations could spur them on any faster; but in the meantime the law-makers were happy.
The first laws to deal with animals reflected a problem that is still present today, and which, indeed, attracts the greatest number of complaints in any modern city: stray dogs. A 'Dog Nuisance Ordinance' was passed on 17 July 1844 in Auckland. This Act was entitled, grandly, 'An Ordinance to provide a summary mode of abating the nuisance of Dogs wandering at large in Towns.' Stray dogs were to be seized for a night and a day, and then the owner had to pay an impoundment fee of five shillings. If the dog was not claimed, it was destroyed.
This fearsome penalty appeared to have very little effect on the incidence of stray dogs. It is not recorded how many stray dogs were put down, but there were certainly packs of half-wild dogs terrorising the settlers. Gillies, who arrived in Otago in 1848, wrote about these stray dogs that they were 'the terror of the flock-master and the object of his inveterate hostility.' In 1866 a paragraph appeared in The New Zealand Herald reporting, 'The bush is infested with packs of wild dogs, as ferocious, but more daring, than wolves.'
On the 6th November 1846 there was passed a 'Duties of Customs Ordinance', by which 'horses, mules, asses, sheep, cattle and all other livestock and animals, as well as seeds, bulbs, and plants were admitted duty-free into New Zealand.' Not only were settlers free to bring in all sorts of lice- and disease-ridden agricultural stock into the country, but they could import odd and exotic animals according to their fancy. It was a mercy, perhaps, that the country was spared panthers, pythons, vultures and man-eating tigers. As it was, kangaroos, bears and emus entered without any demur from the authorities.
It was not these unusual animals that caused trouble, however; it was the disease brought in on unhealthy farm animals. The dreaded scab made itself apparent: the first 'Scab Ordinance' appeared in 1849—'an Act to prevent the extension of the infectious disease called the Scab, as well as the disease called the Influenza or Catarrh, in Sheep or Lambs.'
Other scab laws followed in a fast procession, as all the Provincial Councils legislated against the disease. For the first time the movement of animals was impeded. By 1880 scab had quite disappeared from the country, but unrestricted movement of animals was never to return. In 1876 there was passed an Act 'to restrict the importation of Cattle and other animals into the Colony of New Zealand in certain cases . . . which are likely to propogate any infectious or contagious disease amongst men or animals.' This Act has been modified and re-enacted over the years, but its intention has never been repealed. The next intruder to attract the attention of the law-makers was the thistle. Wellington leapt into the fray first: its 1854 Act page 231 threatened to fine anyone who allowed thistles to run to seed. The Provincial Councils of Taranaki, Auckland, Nelson and Otago followed, but presumably had no better luck with those idle citizens who merely stood by and watched as thistles erupted their little parachutes into the summer air. It seems amazing now that the thistle was singled out for such malign attention while the gorse bloomed on; however in 1859 the Provincial Council of Taranaki passed a 'Furze Ordinance', where those growing 'furze' could be penalised. In 1861 the Provincial Council of Nelson passed a similar Act, imposing a penalty ('not exceeding five pounds') on anyone who planted gorse hedges.
The first legislation designed with acclimatisation in mind was the 'Protection of Certain Animals Act', passed by the Provincial Council of Nelson in 1861. This law was for the protection of such animal species that 'may at any time be imported into the said province.' A penalty of the then enormous sum of fifty pounds was set for the killing, taking or destroying, or selling or offering for sale any such animal, bird or fish; with a penalty ('not exceeding ten pounds') for taking any eggs, either of bird or fish, of animals under the protection of the Act.
In the same year the Colonial Parliament passed its own 'Protection of Certain Animals Act', in which 'no Deer of any kind, Hare, Swan, Partridge, English Plover, Rook, Starling, Thrush or Blackbird' could be shot at any time before the 1st March 1870, and even after that nine-year wait sportsmen could only indulge themselves during the months of April, May, June and July. Maybe Lord Petre's lone red stag was the object of the Nelson legislation, for precious few other animals had arrived to be 'hunted, taken or killed'. In fact the whole Act is interesting in that it was made in anticipation of the rush of introductions that was to be made in the 1860s and 1870s. With this law the way was paved for the acclimatisation societies. In 1867 a new Act was passed, to replace the 1861 Act and two subsequent amendments. This Act proclaimed its interest in loud and unmistakeable terms; it was 'An Act to provide for the Protection of Certain Animals and for the Encouragement of Acclimatisation Societies in New Zealand.'
From this date the acclimatisation societies had to deposit a copy of their rules with the Colonial Secretary; this meant a loss of freedom, having to account to Government. Until then the Government had been an interested bystander; now it wanted to have some control over the importation and conservation of game. Section 29 of the Act read, 'It shall not be lawful for any person to introduce any fox, venomous reptile, hawk, vulture, or other bird of prey into the colony.' A gentleman who had imported some poisonous snakes, not thinking of the legal loophole of de-fanging them, promptly destroyed the reptiles. A pair of foxes had already been introduced into Canterbury in 1864 on the William Miles. There had originally been another fox, a second vixen, but she had dived overboard during the voyage over. The foxes were consigned to Mr Charles Prince, the gentleman who had such a bad time with his shipment of 646 birds on the British Empire. There is no record of what happened to the foxes, but no doubt if they were still alive in 1867, Mr Prince had them put down. His luck was eternally deserting him.
The Act was amended in 1868 so that game animals could be carried from one part of the country to another. Other minor amendments followed, and then in 1880 the preceding Acts were repealed and a new Act passed 'to consolidate the Law for the page 232 Protection of Animals and for the encouragement of Acclimatisation Societies.' One section in this Act stressed the absolute prohibition of the importation of hawks and other birds of prey. Mr Bathgate, who wanted to introduce owls, shrikes and butcher-birds, was furious. 'One would almost think', he protested, 'that the Parliament had been composed of English gamekeepers, who are the uncompromising foes of any bird or animal that they even imagine might kill a young pheasant or partridge.' Mr Bathgate felt that even the carrion-crow would be a handy importation. 'It would destroy a good many young rabbits,' he argued,'—and if it did kill a weakling lamb or two it would merely take the place of the seagulls.' However the Government, which in common with most citizens had doubtless never seen a seagull kill a lamb, remained obdurate.
At a meeting of the Canterbury Society in February 1893, the chairman, Mr Spackman, pointed out the danger of losing one of the great virtues of the land: its lack of snakes. Although the current legislation prohibited the importation of any 'venomous' reptile, dastardly showman types were circumventing the purpose, if not the word, of the law by importing 'de-fanged' venomous snakes. Snakes, when they lose their fangs, retain all other important parts of their anatomy, and are perfectly capable of producing eggs, or baby snakes, depending on the custom of the species: Mr Spackman insisted that these junior snakes, there being no gene for de-fanging, would be born, or hatched, complete with all their poisonous equipment.
A practical man, he suggested that as the Society's representative he should draft an amendment to the Act, and forward it to the Government 'with the object of prohibiting the introduction of all reptiles, whether venomous or not, and also'—an important point here, considering all the weed stowaways that had arrived in dumped matter—'preventing the deposit of ballast from vessels upon the shores of New Zealand.' The Council of the Society agreed to this, and the worthy Mr Spackman carried out his task, with the result that in 1895 the Parliament passed an Amending Act, of which Section 2 read, 'From after the commencement of this Act no society, authority or person shall introduce or import into the colony, or turn at large, for the purposes of sport or acclimatisation, or as game, any animal or bird whatever without the consent in writing of the Minister for the same time being in charge of the Department of Agriculture; nor shall any insect or reptile be introduced or imported into the colony without such consent as aforesaid.' Section 3 was the weak point of the whole piece of legislation. It stated, 'It shall be the duty of the master, owner, charterer or agent of any vessel arriving at any port or place in New Zealand to effectually prevent any snake, scorpion or other noxious reptile from being landed in New Zealand from such vessel, whether in the cargo or otherwise.' Apart from the odd biological mistake of classifying a scorpion as a reptile, this put the onus of administering the law on the skipper of the ship, who lacked the time, interest or energy to worry about the contents of his passengers' luggage or animal stowaways in his hold. As it happened, Australian scorpions had made several determined attempts to invade New Zealand; Mr W. W. Smith took some specimens out of a hardwood cargo at New Plymouth. However they fortunately failed to acclimatise.
At least Mr Spackman attained part of his object: the snakes already in the country were promptly destroyed, and none since have been recorded as being brought into the country, although every now and then someone finds a shed snakeskin in a New page 233 Plymouth park and there is a lot of fuss in the papers. Three varieties of sea-snake quite frequently arrive on our shores; these are invariably in an exhausted condition.
The most common is the yellow-bellied sea-snake, which was first recorded by Polack in 1838 when he found one in the Hokianga River. It is a handsome animal, about 80 centimetres long, flattened like all sea-snakes, a glossy black on top, butter-yellow underneath, and with yellow and black tortoiseshell markings on the paddle-like tail. It is extremely poisonous, the amount of venom injected in one bite being three times the amount needed to kill one man. However it is not at all aggressive, biting only when subjected to the indignity of being caught in a net.
The other two species are types of banded sea-snakes. They are much bigger than the yellow-bellied snake, growing to over a metre long. They are not as flattened, and are striped like a black-and-white barber's pole. They are partly terrestrial, climbing up cliffs and onto rock faces. Like the more frequent yellow visitor, they are not aggressive, which is lucky, as their poison is just about twice as deadly as cobra venom. However the law still stands, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is merciless: the snakes are rewarded for their arduous journey here with prompt extermination.
The snake in the centre jar is a very small specimen of the banded sea snake species which visits New Zealand reasonably frequently. It is very poisonous but not at all aggressive. The quarantine service in Northland came to hear of a 'bloke with a pet snake'; when they investigated they found he had picked up one of these snakes, and had been carrying it around for weeks as a curiosity. When he was informed that it was venomous he was quite pleased to give it up. Despite its remarkably placid nature, this snake finished up the same way as the other two accidental snakes in this picture: in a jar.
This rather large jar contains an Australian Diamondback Snake which arrived in New Zealand in an unusual manner. In the nineteen fifties a car was shipped to New Zealand by its Australian owner. The car passed all inspections; the young man picked it up at the Wellington wharves, and proceeded to drive it northwards. As he neared Palmerston North he gradually became aware of a stealthy rustling sound behind him, so he looked over his shoulder. There was this serpent coiled up on the back seat and peering up at him.
Well. He thought it wasn't a good idea to merely dump it by the side of the road, so he took it to the Palmerston North police station. Being a fellow of humorous disposition, he opened the door of the watchhouse and tossed the snake inside, and was immediately rewarded with the sight of burly constables leaping lightly to the tops of desks and benches.
The sergeant entered to investigate the hullaballoo, and, being a sergeant, he summed up the situation at a glance; with remarkable presence of mind he trapped the snake under an upturned wire wastepaper basket. Then he wrote out the report with great deliberation, resting his foot on the top of the basket all the while. However his display of calm efficiency was completely ruined when one of the constables crept up behind him and gently ran his hand up the sergeant's propped-up leg.
Mr Bathgate of Otago had a different story to account for the 1895 Act. According to his version, the Canterbury Society was considering importing wood-pigeons. Their intention was announced in the Press, and Mr Bathgate, having a deep distrust of these birds, wrote to the Otago Daily Times protesting their introduction, and suggesting that the farmers' clubs should petition the Government to interfere. Several clubs followed Mr Bathgate's advice, with the result, according to Mr Bathgate, that the project was abandoned and the amended Act passed.
One gathers from this that Mr Bathgate was not on very friendly terms with the Canterbury Society in general, and perhaps Mr Spackman in particular—he was very quick to point the finger in the business of the sparrow, saying, 'The sparrow came to us from Christchurch.' The wood-pigeon, being of very similar habit to the pheasant, would have had as hard a job to compete with the small birds for the farmers' grain as the pheasant did.
At any rate, things turned out satisfactorily: no-one appears to have regretted the non-arrival of the wood-pigeon, and surely no-one has regretted the banning of the snakes.
While this argument was going on, the legislators were struggling to produce laws to contain the rabbit problem. About 1870 these animals became somewhat abundant and after that date they were so numerous that the agriculture of the country was seriously threatened. The first 'Rabbit Nuisance Act' was passed in the General Assembly in 1876, giving the Government powers to divide the colony into districts for the enforcement of the Act. Within these districts trustees could levy rates of one half-penny per acre and could instruct the occupiers to destroy all rabbits. Anyone introducing rabbits into a district without permission could be imprisoned for up to six months or fined fifty pounds: the severity of the punishment reflected the Government's concern about this destructive animal. In 1880 another, stronger, Act was passed, giving the Trustees the power to enter private lands and destroy the rabbits themselves.
By 1883 Mr Bayly had recommended stoats and weasels as controls, and ferrets were being bred enthusiastically by the Government, so these mustelids had to be protected. A new Act was passed, in which anyone caught catching mustelids and/or destroying them was liable to a fairly stiff fine ('not exceeding ten pounds') or two weeks in prison. People reacted to this Act according to where they lived. If they lived somewhere where rabbits were thick as fleas on a horse-blanket, then they were glad of the mustelids and let them alone; if they lived in a rabbit-free district they more often than not listened to the whispers from the acclimatisation societies, killed the ferrets, stoats and weasels, and no-one said anything about it.
Up until 1885 rabbits could be kept in captivity, but in that year and the next, amending Acts were passed which strictly prohibited the keeping of rabbits except for the teaching of biology. The fine for breaching rabbit regulations was increased to one hundred pounds. Rabbit Acts then proliferated as fast as the pest, giving more power to the Rabbit Board Trustees, regulating the building of rabbit-proof fences, and so on. In 1903 the mustelids met their unjust reward: an Amendment Act was passed declaring that 'weasels, stoats, etc., (once) declared to be a natural enemy of the rabbit, and which have since proved to be the (natural) enemies of game and poultry, may be killed.' page 236 In 1882 other animal importations came in for the attention of the law-makers: the 'Small Birds Nuisance Act' was passed. This Act, which was directed mainly at 'that questionable bird', the sparrow, empowered local bodies to levy rates and allocate funds 'towards the destruction of injurious birds'. However this battle proved to be a losing one. A correspondent to the Lyttelton Times wrote, in 1884, 'The small birds nuisance is getting intolerable and uncontrollable . . . Turnip seed has to be sown three times and yet is not successful.'
This Act was repealed in 1889 and replaced by a more powerful Act, as public opinion about the sparrow grew to dramatic proportions. The eminent scientist T. W. Kirk entered the fray. 'I have myself dissected fifty-three birds, taken at all seasons of the year, and am forced to admit'—with feigned reluctance—'that the remains of insects found in them constituted but a very small proportion of the total food.' 'I would like to know where Mr Kirk got these birds,' remarked G. M. Thomson acidly, 'as he dwells in or near a large town, and the chances are that a considerable amount of the food of the sparrows would be from households and grain from horse-droppings.'
The Member for Avon, Mr Edwin Blake, suggested that boxes of poisoned grain be kept in the guard's van of all trains, and a boy be employed to scatter the grain out the back as the train puffed through the countryside. Half a bushel of grain, Mr Blake remarked, would cover twenty miles. Taylor White reminisced that when he was a small boy in England he, and other small boys, used to make pocket-money by destroying sparrows. 'When a very little fellow, I used to make a practice of catching these birds and saving their heads,' he related. 'When a good necklace of heads was collected I would go to the workshop of a village carpenter ... His name I remember well—Chadwick; he would count the heads, and then give me a few of the large pennies current in those days.'
In many localities sparrow clubs were set up for this same purpose of encouraging small boys to kill sparrows, and for years farmers had been paying lads for collecting eggs. James Drummond contributed a scientific note when he sent out circulars to farmers and interested people, containing 29 questions to be answered, and asking for comments. His summary of results was read to the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury in 1905. After pointing out that Frederick the Great of Prussia, when he exterminated the sparrow in his country in the 1730s, found himself faced with a plague of caterpillars, Mr Drummond admitted that the sparrow in New Zealand, as in England, refuses to go out into the woods and make an honest living. 'It clings to civilisation and cultivation, and insists on inflicting upon man its most unwelcome company.' Of the hundreds of correspondents who filled in Mr Drummond's circular, there were only six who wrote in favour of the sparrow. As James Drummond remarked, when the insects were on the warpath and people were liable to be eaten out of house and home, the sparrow was a very popular character, but since then a new generation had arisen to forget the caterpillars and bugs, so that only the sparrow's vices were being considered.
Finally, in 1908, 'The Injurious Birds Act' was passed, and wholesale extermination of small birds commenced. Some idea of the abundance of sparrows in New Zealand can be obtained by looking at the statistics of heads and eggs brought in for bounty payments. One trapper in the Rakaia district was paid over £54 in just one page 237 month, the payment being for 17 429 sparrow heads. The Ashburton County Council started buying birds' heads in 1918, and in the first two months of the project paid £495.17.8d for sparrow and skylark heads and eggs. And yet there was little apparent effect on the small-bird population; the eggs and heads came in, the poisoned pheasants dropped dead in their hundreds—and the population of sparrows was as vital as ever.
The swings of legislation on the opossum situation reflected the pendulum of public opinion. In 1912 the opossum was declared to be imported game. Just a year later, after impassioned representations from the acclimatisation societies, it was decided that opossums should be absolutely protected in specified areas, and in 1916 a further warrant was issued absolutely protecting opossums in the Wellington Acclimatisation District. Shrieks of rage from the trappers and orchardists prompted the commissioning of Professor Harry Borrer Kirk's Report. 'The favourite plants of the opossum are damaged by constant climbing and playing,' declared Professor Kirk, 'but this generally happens near houses or at the edge of a clearing; I have never seen serious damage of this kind in the forest.' Despite his conviction that opossums do not damage trees by eating them, he recommended that there be an open season in the months of May, June and July, and that orchardists could kill opossums at any time without penalty, as long as the deed was reported to the local postmaster. Following this Report the month of June 1921 was declared an open season. Several hundred licences were issued and many thousands of skins were obtained—with little effect on the opossum population.
Then came the 1921 Animals Protection and Game Act, which declared that opossums could not be taken or killed, except by licensed trappers. Dealers were required to keep registers. The Forest Service at this time, along with the acclimatisation societies, was strongly in favour of more opossum liberations and the establishment of a fur industry. However, the Forest and Bird Protection Society and other prominent scientific bodies petitioned so strongly from 1924 that all representation for further liberations of the opossums ceased in 1941, and jn 1947 regulations cancelled all restrictions on the taking of opossums, and made the keeping and liberation of opossums subject to heavy penalties. Poisoning was legalised for certain areas. The opossum in New Zealand reached the nadir of its existence in 1953. In the Wildlife Act, which came into force on April Fools' Day 1954, the opossum was inducted in the list of noxious animals. In the Noxious Animals Act 1956 it was declared an offence 'to release at large or keep in captivity any noxious animals (noxious animals being deer, goats, chamois, pigs, wallabies and opossums) except in accordance with a permit or licence issued by either the Director-General of Agriculture.' With the deer and the goat, the opossum was now eligible to play a part in the diversification of farming that is so fashionable today; as long as a person has 'a permit or a licence' he can set up an opossum fur farm. The rabbit joined this select company when, in'The Agricultural Pests (Exemption of Domestic Rabbits) Order 1980* six breeds of rabbit were exempted from the Agricultural Pests Destruction Act, and the way to rabbit farming was opened.
Insect pests due to imported species have received a great deal of attention from the lawmakers. In 1854 the Nelson Provincial Council passed an 'Ordinance to prevent the increase of American Blight.' Anyone not scraping the dreaded insect from his trees could be fined forty shillings, with the fine escalating steeply for repeated offences. Thirty years later the New Zealand Parliament passed the Codlin Moth Act 1884, in which district councils could levy a half-penny per tree for funds to combat the pest. A more comprehensive Act was passed in 1903—'The Orchard and Gardens Pest Act'—which was 'an Act to prevent the Introduction into New Zealand of Diseases affecting Orchards and Gardens, and to provide for the page 239 eradication of such Diseases, and to prevent the spread thereof.' The Agriculture Department for the first time had absolute power to prohibit the introduction of any organism likely to introduce disease into New Zealand, a power it holds to this day. The first schedule of this Act named the 'Mediterranean fruit fly, Phylloxera, American Blight and Codlin Moth' in its list of pests. The fly and the phylloxera had not as yet arrived, so the legislators were demonstrating that they were very aware of possible future problems.
Fishes had the blessing of the law-makers right from the very start of their introduction to New Zealand, as the 'Trout and Salmon Act' was passed in 1867. It made provision for 'the preservation and propagation of Salmon and Trout in this Colony.' This Act looked thoroughly comprehensive; amazingly so, considering that fish had barely begun to arrive—it prohibited 'the use of nets or other engines' to take fish. But something was missing. In 1878 another Act was passed, the gap was filled, and the use of dynamite to take fish was denied. In the Animals Protection Amendment Act of 1884 provision was made for the enforcement of this rule: rangers could now 'seize all nets, guns, engines, instruments and devices'—one wonders how many citizens spent their leisure hours inventing eccentric machines for the taking of fish and game.
The 1867 Act was amended several times, allowing for closed seasons, selling of licences, building of hatcheries, and so on. Then in 1908 'The Fisheries Act' consolidated all previous fish legislation. This Act made provision for all sea and freshwater fisheries. For sea fisheries it defined administration by the Fisheries Department, the registration of fishing boats and licensing of fishermen. Conditions and restrictions on the taking of fish, oysters, crayfish, toheroas and other marine animals were set. This Act still stands, although the individual regulations are subject to change, and a 1970 amendment enables regulations to be made prohibiting water pollution. Part 2 of the Act provided for the administration of the freshwater fisheries by the acclimatisation societies. In 1935 the Whaling Industry Act was passed, licensing whaling ships and protecting the right whale, any immature whale and any female whale accompanied by a calf. The Customs Import Prohibition Order 1975 prohibits the import to New Zealand of live whales or specified whale products. The legislators today, aware as ever of the tides of public opinion, are conscious of the need for conservation in the seas around us.
The first Noxious Weeds Act was passed in 1900. This was 'An Act to prevent the spread of Noxious Weeds, and to enforce the Trimming of Hedges.' It required landowners to keep not only their properties, but also the road verges along their boundaries, free of weeds. The apparent effect of this Act was nil. Thomson commented with asperity, 'The law has been honoured more in the breach than in the observance. The Government itself,' he went on, 'has been one of the greatest offenders. The Crown Lands are perfect nurseries of weeds.'
There was constant public outcry about the abundance of weeds—a complaint that is still heard today. The fact is, that it is much easier to make laws about a weed than it is to eradicate it. The origin of many weeds was recognised in section 7 of the Act, which prohibited the sale of'any grass seed, or other seed or grain, which has not been thoroughly dressed by means of a seed-cleaning machine.'
The classification of weeds was interesting, as it reflected public opinion of the page 240 time. Blackberry, thistle and sweet briar were public enemy number one, to be eliminated on sight. Rather less dangerous were broom, burr, burdock, gorse, hakea and ragwort, to be destroyed in certain areas. This Act was regularly revised, repealed and re-enacted, changing in the lists of noxious weeds. In 1928 ragwort joined the dreaded three at the top of the list, and then, in the current 1950 Act, the pecking order of weeds was dispensed with, all noxious weeds—65 of them—being listed in one schedule. The fines, in line with inflation, have increased significantly.
The Wildlife Act of 1953 made new provision for the protection of birds and animals, its purpose being 'to consolidate and amend the law relating to the protection and control of wild animals and birds, the regulation of game-shooting seasons, and the constitution and powers of acclimatisations societies.' Various classes of wildlife are defined, and provision is made for wildlife sanctuaries; the hunting of game is regulated; the constitutions and rules of the acclimatisation districts are spelled out; powers of rangers are defined; restrictions on liberating or exporting wildlife are dealt with; homing pigeons are protected; pollution is prevented—and bylaw-making powers are granted to local authorities for the destruction of injurious small birds.
After all these years, the sparrow is still an unwelcome intruder.
The first noxious weeds act was passed in 1900, but its apparent effect was nil. The Government itself remarked Thomson, 'has been one of the greatest offenders. The Crown Lands are perfect nurseries of weeds.' The fact is, it is much easier to legislate against weeds than it is to remove them. Railway lines always have been, and probably always will be, havens for invading weeds. Willows joined the noxious weeds in the Act of 1950. The trees were freely planted by the settlers, and were spread freely by floods and storms. They acclimatised so well that in some parts they form a continuous fringe along many streams and rivers.