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Call for urgent funds to tackle fire ant threat

CANEGROWERS has joined a coalition of conservation, community and farming organisations urging a ministerial meeting tomorrow to escalate efforts to eradicate red fire ants from Queensland.

“Our members are on the frontline trying to prevent this imported pest becoming a serious impediment to agriculture in Queensland but they are being let down by an overstretched State Government capability,” CANEGROWERS CEO Dan Galligan said.

Cane growers in the Rocky Point district have reported more than 300 suspect fire ant nests to authorities.

“But they are waiting up to 60 days for an inspector to arrive to look at the nests,” Mr Galligan said.

“Their calls for help are sitting in an unacceptably big pile of backlogged reports, giving these aggressive and stinging ants a head start in colonising cane paddocks, nearby suburbs and bushland areas.

“This is unacceptable when you are dealing with an invasive species that has the potential to kill people and animals.”

In the United States 85 people have died after being swarmed and stung by fire ants and they cost the country’s agricultural industries $7 billion each year.

In Australia, the Invasive Species Council warns conditions are right for them to colonise 90% of the mainland if they are not eradicated. It says a $380 million effort over ten years is needed in Australia.

CANEGROWERS signed an Invasive Species Council open letter urging all levels of government to:

  • Fund the eradication of red fire ants to the level recommended by the expert independent review into the program;
  • Commit to fund the eradication program until the job is complete to provide certainty and ensure success;
  • Provide the necessary oversight and transparency to ensure that eradication efforts are effective and accountable to governments and the public; and
  • Ensure that effective biosecurity measures are in place to prevent the arrival of new infestations of red fire ants.

“We are experiencing a slowly developing disaster for Queensland agriculture that will go on to threaten farming across the country if not kept in check,” Mr Galligan said.

“Queensland Government biosecurity resources are over-stretched dealing with white spot disease in the prawn industry and Panama TR4 in the banana industry.

“We urgently need more resources to address the risk that fire ants pose so we are adding our voice to the Invasive Species Council’s campaign. This is a national issue and not one Queensland can tackle alone.”

Read more about the Invasive Species Council campaign here: www.invasives.org.au

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