Fire ants on target for destruction

Up to 140 additional staff will be recruited to eradicate fire ants in Queensland.

Agriculture Minister Bill Byrne said the $411.4 million decade-long eradication program that will commence this month will double the effort to neutralise the threat of red imported fire ants.

“The focus of the eradication program over the next 10 years is to reduce the size of the infestation in a staged approach, rolling out an eradication planned treatment program from west to east,” Minister Byrne said.

“An intensive bait treatment program will get under way this month in outer western infestation areas of the Lockyer Valley, Ipswich and Scenic Rim.

“Three rounds of bait treatment will be applied over a nine month period, with the bait treatment expected to commence this month.

“This year, the program is expecting to treat more than 250,000 hectares, compared to almost 100,000 ha completed last year.”

Minister Byrne said the Palaszczuk Government welcomed the additional funding of $411.4 million over 10 years endorsed at the Agricultural Minister’s Forum in July 2017 with Queensland’s share being $43.2 million.

“The additional funding will not only increase the program’s treatment and surveillance capacity, it will allow for more advanced, innovative techniques and tools to achieve greater efficiency in eradication efforts,” he said.

“While the program focusses on the expanded treatment plan, it will continue to respond to public reports and destroy fire ant infestations when detected to reduce immediate risks to the public.

“The funding will also result in increased scientific analysis of eradication processes and tools, odour detection dogs, community engagement, remote sensing surveillance research and development, and improved IT systems.

“An independent Steering Committee has been established to provide high level strategic oversight of the program.”

Program Director Geoff Kent said fire ant bait treatment involves the distribution of granulated bait over lawns, garden beds and other open areas either by foot, all-terrain vehicle or by helicopter.

“The bait treatment is not harmful to humans or animals as it is specifically targeted at fire ants,” Mr Kent said.

“Residents will be notified when treatment has been undertaken, advising them of the importance not to water, mow or disturb their lawns and gardens for at least 48 hours.

“Program officers will also be in contact with the owners of farms and large acreage sites where aerial treatment by helicopter is to occur, in accordance with requirements from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.”

Minister Byrne said while we still have a lot of work to do, Australia was the closest any country had come to eradicating fire ants, and we need to keep going.

“This job will be challenging and cannot be done without the continued support of industry and the community to eradicate fire ants once and for all,” he said.

Successive Queensland Governments have spent $353 million on the eradication of fire ants since its first detection in 2001.

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.

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