The new Ten-Year Plan emphasises the need to significantly increase the total area receiving multiple consecutive treatments of bait. It prescribes a ‘rolling’ strategy: starting with intensive treatment on the western and south-western edges of the Program’s operations in the Lockyer Valley and the Scenic Rim, then rolling intensive treatment activities eastward in subsequent years. In the meantime, the eastern parts of the infestation, in Ipswich, Brisbane, Logan, Redland Bay and Gold Coast cities, are to receive treatment to suppress the persistent infestations in those areas. By the end of the treatment season in March 2018, Biosecurity Queensland had: • treated only 45% of the western zone and • virtually abandoned treating the persistent infestations in the vast bulk of the infestation after six months: to direct resources to the west and because it was simply being swamped with new detections. Biosecurity Queensland did not fail to do the job because it ran out of money. It was 20% under-spent on its budget. Biosecurity Queensland failed because its managers and oversight committee are incompetent. It is time to sack the GM, the Program Director and the Steering Committee and to hold Queensland Minister for Agriculture, Mark Furner to account. 1st October 2018
Having wasted more than $400m of public money over the past fifteen years, only to see the infestation get ten times worse, Biosecurity Queensland’s new Ten Year, $411m, Fire Ant Eradication Program promises ‘a significant boost in all eradication activities, including increasing the total area receiving treatment.’ The Plan states the need for a ‘comprehensive treatment program centred on multiple consecutive bait treatments, applied consistently over an extensive area…applied with sufficient coverage to reduce the recurrence of infestation.’
The Plan prescribes a ‘rolling’ strategy: starting with intensive treatment on the western and south-western edges of the Program’s operations in the Lockyer Valley and the Scenic Rim, then rolling the intensive treatment activities eastward in subsequent years. In the meantime, the eastern parts of the infestation, in Ipswich, Brisbane, Logan, Redland Bay and Gold Coast cities would receive treatments to suppress the persistent infestations in those areas.
The Work Plan for 2017-18 called for three consecutive applications of a broadcast bait, over 84,000ha of the western area, during the treatment season (September to March/April when ants are actively foraging), mostly by air, each year for two years. Biosecurity Queensland’s own research shows that it takes at least five consecutive and comprehensive applications of bait to destroy fire ant nests.
At the same time, persistent infestations in Ipswich, Brisbane, Logan, Redland Bay and Gold Coast cities would be suppressed with a combination of baiting and the untested practice of injecting insecticide directly into nests.
By 31st March 2018, the end of the 3rd quarter of 2017-18 and the end of the treatment season, the results show the new Ten Year Fire Ant Eradication Program is an utter failure:
Only 45% of the western area received intensive treatment
The Work Plan for 2017-18 specified 84,000ha of the western infestation to be treated three times a year for two years: making a total of 252,000ha to be treated each year. Biosecurity Queensland treated only 115,520ha: 45% of its target. Round 1 delivered almost a full round. Round 2 delivered less than half a round and Round 3 never happened at all.
Biosecurity Queensland blamed ‘unseasonal rain events.’ Statistics from the Bureau of Meteorology show that south-east Queensland ALWAYS gets most rain between November and April.
Treatment to suppress persistent infestations in the east virtually abandoned after six months.
Between July and September 2017, and Biosecurity Queensland baited 900ha across Ipswich, Brisbane, Logan and Gold Coast cities, with emphasis on the heavy infestations in Ipswich and the Gold Coast. At the same time, 102 new areas of infestation were detected: with 5815 nests. And two new and particularly significant areas of infestations were found in new housing estates in Lowood and Beaudesert.
Between October and December 2017, Biosecurity Queensland baited another 1129ha and injected another 311 nests across Ipswich, Brisbane, Logan and Gold Coast cities: again with emphasis on the heavy infestations in Ipswich and the Gold Coast. But between January and March 2018, Biosecurity Queensland reduced activities to treat persistent infestations back ‘to a minimum’: injecting only 28 nests that posed a risk to public safety.
Biosecurity Queensland virtually abandoned attempting to suppress persistent nests in the vast bulk of the infestation after just six months because Biosecurity Queensland needed to divert its resources to the failed intensive treatment operations in the west. And because Biosecurity Queensland was being swamped with reports of newly detected infestations. Between July 2017 and March 2018, a vigilant public had submitted nearly 4,000 samples of suspicious ants: 70-80% of them were fire ants.
It was not that Biosecurity Queensland had run out of money to do the job. It was underspent to the tune of $7.5m: 20% of its $38m annual budget.
The Ten-Year Fire Ant Eradication Program is an utter failure because Program managers and the Steering Committee are incompetent.
The Queensland Biosecurity Capability Review of September 2015 said Biosecurity Queensland lacks the ability to plan strategically, to priorities activities on the basis of risk, does not optimise the use of its resources and its decision making is conflicted and inconsistent: in short, Biosecurity Queensland does not have the capacity to manage now or in the future. In 2018, nothing has changed.
It is time to sack the General Manager, the Program Director and the Steering Committee that approved the nonsense which is the new Ten Year Eradication Program. And it is time to hold the Queensland Minister for Agriculture, Mark Furner, accountable for this waste of the public money and for putting Queensland’s lifestyle, economy and environment in jeopardy.