Fresh fire ant nests have been found in Underwood Park after a $9m upgrade of a sporting fields, play grounds and other amenities in a major Logan City community facility. Fire ants threaten the safety of hundreds of children and adults, sporting teams and their spectators, Logan residents and visitors who come to enjoy the park. The area has been inside the operational area of Biosecurity Queensland’s fire ant program since 2001 and is about 10km from program HQ. Fire ants continue to spread through south-east Queensland because Biosecurity Queensland does not control the movement of fire ant friendly materials like soil and mulch from inside fire ant infested areas. Biosecurity Queensland has spent $500m of public money so far and with another $411m to come, but has abandoned any attempt to contain the spread of fire ants. It abandoned its large team of biosecurity inspectors, abandoned the use of approved risk management plans, does not control the movement of fire ant friendly materials out of infested areas and does not keep its Fire Ant Biosecurity Zones map up to date. The infestation is now over twelve times what it was in 2001 when they were first detected in Brisbane: up from 40,000ha to over 500,000ha. Fire ant nests are continually found outside the operational area of Biosecurity Queensland’s Fire Ant Program. Time for a Royal Commission. 1st February 2020.
Fresh fire ant nests have been found in Underwood Park, Logan, close to Brisbane and Redland cites. The area has been inside Biosecurity Queensland’s Fire Ant Program area of operations since 2001 and is about 10km from Biosecurity Queensland’s Fire Ant Program head-quarters in Berrinba.
Underwood Park is major community amenity in the city of Logan. In the last year, it under-went a $9m upgrade of its facilities. New sporting facilities and club houses were built for two of Logan’s major sporting teams. A magnificent playground or playscape was created for children. Storage facilities for local cycling enthusiasts were built so too were facilities for community groups like Meal on Wheels. Fire ants now threaten the safety of hundreds of children and adults, sporting teams and their spectators, Logan residents and visitors who come to enjoy Underwood Park.
Fire ant nests are hard to see. They look like a simple pile of dirt. But if someone accidentally stumbles onto a nest, dozens of ants will aggressively swarm the hapless victim and inflict dozens of hot burning stings. Those stings can kill people who are allergic to their toxin.
The major cause of fire ant spreading out of control in south-east Queensland, and other parts of the world they have invaded, is human-assisted movement ie: people carelessly or accidentally moving fire ants in truck or trailer loads of fire ant friendly materials like soil, mulch, compost, quarry materials, hay, turf, potted plants etc.
Biosecurity Queensland has been funded to the tune of $500m so far, with another $411m to follow, to find and kill fire ants and to stop their spread. But Biosecurity Queensland has abrogated its responsibility to stop the spread of fire ants and has dumped that responsibility onto the public.
The Biosecurity Act 2014, puts a General Biosecurity Obligation or people or organisations living and working within Fire Ant Biosecurity Zones to take reasonable care not to spread fire ants. Community and industry representatives at a Stakeholder Forum in May 2018 said they were happy to accept their General Biosecurity Obligation but wanted Biosecurity Queensland to fulfil its own obligation by:
Reinstating the large team of biosecurity inspectors who used to identify high risk businesses, help them develop fire ant risk management plans, audit those plans and prosecute those who did not comply with them. Biosecurity Queensland has not.
Reintroducing the use of Approved (Fire Ant) Risk Management Plans for high risk enterprises and Quality Assurance programs for suppliers to help them mitigate their risk of spreading fire ants. Biosecurity Queensland has not.
Approving land development applications, subject to them containing suitable fire ant management plans. Biosecurity Queensland has not.
Controlling the movement of fire ant carriers in and out of biosecurity zones, including weekend markets. Biosecurity Queensland does not.
Providing more information on changes to Fire Ant Biosecurity Zones, fire ant carriers and risk mitigation measures. Biosecurity Queensland’s Fire Ant Zone map is nineteen months out of date.
Instead Biosecurity Queensland threatens those who accidentally or carelessly move fire ants with fines of up to $5000. To my knowledge, Biosecurity Queensland has successfully prosecuted only two cases in eighteen years and potential offenders can legitimately claim they did not know if they were inside a Fire Ant Biosecurity Zone or not.
The fire ant infestation is now twelve times what it was in 2001 when they were first detected in Brisbane: up from 40,000ha to over 500,000ha and fire ant nests are continually found beyond Biosecurity Queensland’s Fire Ant Program operational areas, because Biosecurity Queensland has abrogated its responsibility to control the spread of fire ants.
Time for a Royal Commission.