THE Federal Government has stepped up its fight to eradicate the red imported fire ant in Australia, after signing off on a 10 year, $400 million battle plan to exterminate the menacing species.
Agricultural Ministers from every state and territory agreed that it was in the national interest to double the current amount of funding for treatment and surveillance if the country were to be successful in eradicating the pest.
Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries Bill Byrne said the $411.4 million eradication plan, announced at the Agricultural Ministers Forum (AGMIN) in Melbourne, will be implemented as a priority in Queensland.
ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER THIS ADVERTISEMENT
“The Palaszczuk Government welcomes today’s decision and remains committed to eradicating fire ants in Queensland,” Minister Byrne said.
“As a result of this agreement the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program will receive $38 million a year, adjusted annually for inflation, until 2027.”
“The 10-year eradication plan has been approved by AGMIN and will now be implemented as a priority in Queensland.”
Minister Byrne said the plan will include a significantly expanded fire ant treatment program which will commence in September and run through to May next year.
“The first treatment program will focus on the outer high-risk infestation areas such as the Lockyer Valley and Scenic Rim local government areas,” he said.
“Biosecurity Queensland will be communicating with residents and businesses in these areas before and during the treatment season.”
Minister Byrne said it remained in the national interest to eradicate fire ants due to the potential negative impacts the invasive species had on Australia’s economy, environment, public health, and lifestyle.
“While we still have a lot of work to do, Australia is the closest any country has come to eradicating fire ants, and we need to keep going,” he said.
“If left uncontrolled, the impacts of fire ants in Australia have been estimated to be between $5.3 billion and $45 billion over 20 to 70 years.”
The Invasive Species Council said if not eradicated, the fire ants will have an impact on Australia greater than rabbits, cane toads, foxes, camels, wild dogs and feral cats combined.
“Our fire ant fighters have finally been given the war chest they need to eradicate deadly fire ants from Australia,” Invasive Species Council CEO Andrew Cox said.
“This will be one of the largest biosecurity operations ever undertaken in Australia. It will be a long, hard fight, but is essential if we are to keep the country safe from the ravages of fire ants.”
Mr Cox commended the leadership shown in securing the decision at a meeting of agriculture ministers from across the country in Melbourne today, particularly the role played by Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.
“This is a huge achievement and shows a clear resolve from all governments and political parties,” he said.
“Now that proper funding has been secured, we will be focused on ensuring improved oversight and governance of the program to make sure the funds are well spent.
“Prevention and early rapid response is the most cost effective way to handle biosecurity breaches and stop the next fire ant before it becomes a billion-dollar problem.”
The program will be overseen by an independent steering committee of high calibre representatives from the Commonwealth and State and Territory governments.
If you see any suspect ants or nests, please take a photograph and submit via our online report form at www.daf.qld.gov.au/fireants or call Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.