NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Pest Management Officer and Grafton local Jeff Thomas was recognised with an award at the Premier’s Public Sector Awards 2009 in Sydney.

Jeff has worked with NPWS, now part of the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (DECCW), for over 20 years and is often involved in community groups in the Clarence Valley, delivering nationally recognised weed and pest control programs.

Director of NPWS Sally Barnes said Jeff was an oustanding officer and the award was well-deserved for a career dedicated to good conservation management programs and community involvement.

“Appointed as a Pest Management Officer with NPWS at Grafton in 1995, Jeff quickly developed a national reputation for the excellence of the weed and pest animal control programs undertaken in the North Coast region,” Ms Barnes said.

“An excellent example of the effectiveness of his longstanding commitment to service delivery is the weed control program in the Iluka Nature Reserve.

“The Iluka Landcare Group are actively involved in habitat restoration on the Iluka Peninsula, north of Yamba, which Jeff has worked with since the 1990s.”

Iluka Bluff Beach was awarded the ‘Cleanest Beach’ award for NSW in 2002 through the combined efforts of NPWS and the Iluka Landcare Group in restoring and preserving the Iluka Nature Reserve’s World heritage rainforest and Bundjalung National Park.

A foundation member of the Landcare Group, Kay Jeffery, said Jeff is always helpful with his knowledge and information.

“Without his help and assistance we could not have achieved what we have over the years,” Ms Jeffery said.

Jeff was a key member of the North Coast Bitou Bush Taskforce. Bitou Bush is a weed of national significance, threatening native species and habitats along 90% of the NSW coastline.

Between 1999 and 2002, Jeff mapped the distribution and abundance of Bitou Bush along the entire NSW coast, prepared a Statewide management strategy for Bitou Bush and established demonstration sites at key locations along the coast to educate community groups on the use of effective control methods, and to monitor the success of the programs.

After a decade of persistent effort and the introduction of innovative techniques, the native dune vegetation is returning to vast areas of the NSW coastline.

Jeff has conducted many pest animal control programs over the years, including fox control programs to protect the threatened Pied Oystercatcher and Rufous Bettong.

One of Jeff’s longest running pest animal control programs has been to target cane toads, to prevent them spreading further south in the Clarence Valley.

Each year Jeff leads the efforts of NPWS staff, contractors and the community in controlling cane toads, catching up to 4000 each season.

Part of the annual program includes a well-organised cane toad ‘muster’ at Yamba which often sometimes involves more than 300 members of the public, many of them children, with up to 1000 cane toads captured at single events.

Jeff’s leadership on this issue is appreciated by his colleagues and it has motivated many of them to undertake cane toad control on their own time, and the formation of a new group (Clarence Valley Conservation In Action) to co-ordinate and promote community involvement.

In 2004 Yellow Crazy Ants were detected at a wharf near Goodwood Island near Iluka, the first time they were detected in NSW.

Jeff was a key member of an inter-agency team that set out to eradicate this incursion from Goodwood Island. The eradication program has been successful as no Yellow Crazy Ants seen on the Island since 2006.