Biosecurity Queensland has continually watered down its treatment regime: from twelve rounds of bait over three years, to just six rounds over two years, with no evidence that regime works. And they can’t even deliver on that. Under-treating fire ants does not kill them. It gives them the chance to spread. Between 2001-2016, the fire ant infestation blew out from 40,000ha to 400,000ha. In 2017-18, the first year of the $411m 2017-27 fire ant program, Biosecurity Queensland applied less than half the scheduled amount of bait to critical areas on the western edge of the infestation in the Scenic Rim and the Lockyer Valley regions. And abandoned spot treating persistent infestations in the east of the infestation. In 2018-19, the second year of the 2017-27 program, Biosecurity Queensland was still completing the 2017-18 schedule of treatment in the Scenic Rim and the Lockyer Valley regions. And Biosecurity Queensland abandoned it much touted ‘rolling’ treatment strategy (starting in the west then rolling toward the east in subsequent years) to shift focus to the heavily infested Gold Coast Development Corridor. But only part of the Gold Coast got only one application of bait. Chronic under-treatment does not kill fire ants. It gives them a chance to spread and is a waste of bait and money. Since the start of the $411m 2017-27 fire ant program, seventeen significant fire ant infestations have been found outside Biosecurity Queensland’s operations at Lowood, Beaudesert, Bridgeman Downs, three at Thornton, Blenheim, Labrador, Townson, two at Helensvale, the Brisbane Airport, Southport, Brendale, Boyland, Fernvale and Bromelton. The fire ant infestation has now blown out to 500,000ha Time for a Royal Commission 14 October 2019.
The spikes in fire ant infestations in Logan City and the Scenic Rim region in south-east Queensland, reported in the Jimboomba Times and the Beaudesert Times in September, are inevitable because Biosecurity Queensland chronically under-treats the infestation.
In 2001, international experts said the only way to eradicate the fire ant infestation in south-east Queensland was to bait the entire infestation with four rounds of bait, each season, for three years: ie twelve rounds of bait in total. That was the plan the national Agriculture Ministers agreed to fund.
Fire ants continue to spread in south-east Queensland, in part because Biosecurity Queensland has continually watered down its treatment regime. Between 2001 and 2016, the fire ant infestation blew out from 40,000ha to 400,000ha.
Biosecurity Queensland’s treatment regime is now down to just three rounds of bait each year for just two years (just six rounds), over only part of the infestation, with no evidence that regime works. And Biosecurity Queensland can’t even deliver on that.
In 2017-18, Biosecurity Queensland touted itself as ‘world leaders in the eradication of fire ants’. Biosecurity Queensland promised to increase the area it treated. They planned a ‘rolling’ treatment strategy that started on the western edge of the infestation in the Scenic Rim and the Lockyer Valley and rolled eastward in subsequent years. Biosecurity Queensland promised three rounds of bait, each season for just two years: just half the amount recommended by experts in 2001. At the same time, they planned to spot treat persistent infestations in the east. They did not deliver on even that watered-down regime.
In 2017-18 Biosecurity Queensland treated only 84,000ha of the western edge of the infestation: all of it once, only half of it twice and none of it three times. Under-treating fire ants does not kill them or stop them spreading. It’s just a waste of bait and money. And they abandoned their plan to treat persistent infestation in Ipswich, Brisbane, Logan, Redland and Gold Coast cities because they were swamped with too many reports from the public.
In 2018-19, Biosecurity Queensland abandoned its ‘rolling’ treatment strategy and shifted its focus to include both the western edge of the infestation in the Lockyer Valley and Scenic Rim regions and the massive infestation in the Gold Coast Development Corridor. Again, it could not deliver on that plan either.
By 30 March 2019, virtually at the end of the treatment season from September 2018 to May 2019, Biosecurity Queensland was still finishing the third round of treatment over parts of the Lockyer Valley and the Scenic Rim, left over from 2017-18 season. And only 11,000ha of the Gold Coast Development Corridor received one of the three rounds of bait it was scheduled to receive: a total waste of bait and money.
Biosecurity Queensland blamed wet weather, knowing since 2001 it has to manage fire ant treatment during south-east Queensland’s wet season, and budget constraints. Biosecurity Queensland’s has often been criticised for its lack of financial skills.
Chronic under-treatment does not kill fire ants. It gives them to chance to spread. And they have. Between July 2017 and March 2019 of the $411.4m 2017-27, Ten Year Fire Ant Eradication Program, seventeen significant infestations of fire ants have been found outside Biosecurity Queensland’s operations – in every direction:
Further west and south-west into the Lockyer Valley are three infestations at Thornton, one at Blenheim and one at Townson.
Further north into Brisbane city are infestations at Bridgeman Downs and the Brisbane Airport.
Further north into the Somerset region are infestations at Lowood and Fernvale.
Further north into the Moreton Bay region are infestations at Brendale.
Further south into Gold Coast city are two infestation at Helensvale and one each at Southport and Labrador.
Further south east into the Scenic Rim area are infestations at Beaudesert, Boyland and Bromelton.
As Biosecurity Queensland continues to under-treat the fire ant infestation, it has blown out of 500,000ha. The $411m Ten Year Fire Ant Program (2017-27) fire ant program is a disaster.
Time for a Royal Commission.