Another new housing estate in south-east Queensland has been found to be infested with fire ants, threatening the safety of residents. Ten fire ant nests were found in a new housing estate in Lowood last week: well into the Somerset Regional Council area and many kilometres from Biosecurity Queensland’s fire ant boundary. Fire ants have also been found recently in a number of new housing estates in south-east Queensland: in Beerwah, Camp Mountain, Upper Kedron, Yarrabilba, Pimpama and Ripley. This is just more evidence of Biosecurity Queensland’s incompetence. Biosecurity Queensland cannot find fire ants, cannot kill fire ants and has totally abrogated it responsibility to stop fire ants spreading further into south-east Queensland. The Commonwealth and other State and Territory governments have recently agreed to give Biosecurity Queensland another $400m of public money, on top of the $400m it has wasted so far, to finally eradicate fire ants. The likely outcome is that Biosecurity Queensland will waste even more public money and a well-entrenched fire ant infestation will spread into the rest of Australia. 8th August 2017
Another new housing estate in south-east Queensland has been found to be infested with fire ants. Ten fire ant nests were found in a new estate in Lowood last week: well into the Somerset Regional Council area and many kilometres from Biosecurity Queensland’s fire ant boundary. This is just more evidence of Biosecurity Queensland’s incompetence and total abrogation of its responsibility to stop fire ants spreading further into south-east Queensland.
Fire ant nests have been detected in a number of new housing estates all over south-east Queensland during these cooler months: in a new estate in Beerwah on the Sunshine Coast, also many kilometres outside Biosecurity Queensland’s fire ant zone; in a new housing estate in Camp Mountain, near Samford in the Moreton Bay Regional area; in two new housing estates in Upper Kedron on the edge of the Brisbane City Council area; in a housing estate in Yarrabilba in the Logan City Council area; in another estate in Pimpama on the Gold Coast and in yet another housing estate in Ripley in the Ipswich City Council area.
Development sites are particularly attractive to fire ants who like to build nests in disturbed soil. An infested housing estate poses a huge threat to the safety and well-being its residents. Backyard barbeques, gardening or just letting the kids run around will be out of the question. Dozens of ants will swarm aggressively and inflict multiple burning stings on anyone that disturbs their nest. The stings turn into itchy pustules that last for days. The pustules can become infected. Some people go into anaphylactic shock. Some people die.
The main reason fire ants keep spreading in south-east Queensland is because people carelessly or accidentally move them in truck-loads of fire ant friendly materials like soil, mulch, compost, turf or potted plants. This is called ‘human assisted movement’. Fire ant experts from the USA said in 2001 that we had no chance of eradicating fire ants if we did not stop them spreading with ‘aggressive containment’ measures to stop the human assisted movement of fire ants. Biosecurity Queensland has abrogated its responsibility for doing that.
On the basis that biosecurity needs to be a responsibility shared by the public, industry and government, the Biosecurity Act 2014 creates a ‘General Biosecurity Obligation’ which means that people and organisations living or working in fire ant biosecurity zones are legally responsible for not spreading fire ants: which is fair enough. And the public have done their bit by finding 70% of all new detections. But Biosecurity Queensland has almost totally abrogated its share of responsibility to stop fire ants spreading. Instead of implementing an ‘aggressive containment’ program, Biosecurity Queensland has simply dumped all responsibility for stopping the spread of fire ants onto the public: supported by a few old faded road signs that say ‘Don’t spread fire ants’.
But the public cannot fulfil its obligation not to spread fire ants if people don’t know if they are living or working in a fire ant biosecurity zone. Biosecurity Queensland does not keep its fire ant biosecurity zone map current. It is now 13 months out of date.
And Biosecurity Queensland has reduced its large team of fire ant inspectors down to a mere handful. At the beginning of the program, Biosecurity Queensland had a team of about twenty fire ant inspectors who identified businesses that dealt in fire ant carriers, inspected their premises, helped them develop risk management plans to mitigate their risk of spreading fire ants, audited those plans regularly and prosecuted those who breached their obligation. A mere handful of inspectors can do little in an infestation that is now over 400,000ha.
Instead, Biosecurity Queensland has simply dumped its share of responsibility for stopping the spread of fire ants onto the public. Many community minded businesses do their best to comply, but fire ant nests are extremely difficult to find. They can stay underground for many months before they appear above ground: as they are doing now in new housing estates around south-east Queensland.
Biosecurity Queensland responded to the Lowood infestation with its usual procedure of injecting insecticide into the nests, baiting the surrounding area and conducting surveillance further out. Independent scientific reviews of the program since 2004 have said Biosecurity Queensland’s treatment methods do not work because fire ants keep re-infesting treated areas. They have also said that fire ants are spreading faster than Biosecurity Queensland can find them. In other words, Biosecurity Queensland cannot find fire ants, cannot kill fire ants and cannot stop them spreading.
Biosecurity Queensland has wasted $400m of public money over the past sixteen years with the result the fire ant infestation is now ten times worse that at the beginning. Nevertheless, the Commonwealth and other State and Territory governments recently agreed to give Biosecurity Queensland another $400m over the next ten years to finally eradicate fire ants. In all likelihood, Biosecurity Queensland will waste even more public money and a well-entrenched fire ant infestation will continue to spread into the rest of Australia.