The public have reported 70% of the fire ant nests found in south-east Queensland. But public support for the fire ant program is waning because Biosecurity Queensland takes weeks to follow-up and treat nests the public have reported. Biosecurity Queensland is now threatening the public with 6 months’ jail or a $97,425 fine if they don’t report fire ants: a sure way to lose public support. 15th July 2018
Public support for the National Fire Ant Eradication Program has been outstanding. Biosecurity Queensland acknowledges that the public have found 70% of the fire ant nests in south-east Queensland. Which says something about Biosecurity Queensland’s own ability to find fire ant nests.
While public support for the program has been outstanding, it is waning because Biosecurity Queensland takes weeks and months to follow-up and treat nests the public have reported. This was one of the major complaints made by community and industry representatives at the Fire Ant Program Stakeholders Forum in May 2018. The representatives said because Biosecurity Queensland’s slow response puts public safety at risk and gives fire ants the chance to spread, people are becoming less willing to report fire ant nests and more interested in treating the nests themselves. This, however, is a risky option. Inexperienced operators run the risk of getting badly stung and causing nests to split and spread. And it pushes the cost of treatment onto the public when this is the job Biosecurity Queensland has been given another $411.4m of public money to do.
Biosecurity Queensland’s response to waning public support for reporting fire ant nests is to threaten the public with a hefty fine if they DON’T!
In the ‘Community Surveillance’ section of the ‘National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program – South East Queensland – Proposed 2017-18 Work Plan’
Biosecurity Queensland says it is shifting its focus from encouraging the public to check their properties and to report suspected fire ant nests to reminding the public they have a legislative requirement to report fire ants.
Biosecurity Queensland is now reminding the public that under the Biosecurity Act 2014, fire ants are a Category 1 Restricted Matter. This means members of the public MUST report suspected fire ants to an authorised officer within 24 hours of becoming aware of them: or risk six months’ imprisonment or a $97,425 fine!
Public support for the fire ant program is critical, but Biosecurity Queensland’s punitive Community Engagement strategy is a sure way to lose that support.