In July 2019, Biosecurity Queensland targeted over 425 nests on a new housing estate in Park Ridge in Logan city for treatment. They were ‘thick as fleas on a dog.’ With a backlog of 6300 untreated nests in Logan in May 2019, and more by July, did they ever get treated? And how did they get there in the first place? Despite having an annual budget of $42m, Biosecurity Queensland does not control the movement of fire ant carriers in truck-loads of soil and mulch from infested areas to clean areas. Dozens and dozens of new housing estates in south-east Queensland in Logan, Ipswich and Gold Coast cities and the Scenic Rim, Somerset and Moreton Bay regional areas have been come infested with fire ants, threatening the safety of the residents, because of Biosecurity Queensland’s incompetence. Time for a Royal Commission. 17th March 2020.
Park Ridge, a suburb in Logan City, between Brisbane and the Gold Coast, has seen massive development in recent years.
With development in south-east Queensland has come fire ants. Despite being well funded to the tune of $500m of public money so far and $42m each year, Biosecurity Queensland has abrogated its responsibility to control the movement of fire ants in truck-loads of fire ant friendly materials like soil, mulch, compost and potted plants from known infested areas to clean areas. Consequently, fire ants are out of control in south-east Queensland and are threatening the safety of residents in dozens and dozens of new housing estates in Logan, Ipswich and Gold Coast cities and the Scenic Rim, Somerset and Moreton Bay regional areas in south-east Queensland. When I interviewed residents whose properties were infested with fire ants in 2002, one of their biggest concerns was not being able to let their children play in their own backyards.
That is the fate of families in dozens of new, infested housing estates, including the Mercy Circuit stage of a new housing estate in Park Ridge – an estate that specifically promises bigger backyards for family living. In July 2019, over 425 nests were found between Chambers Flat Road, Mount Barlow Street and Isla street on a site that backs onto other houses. I’m told they were ‘thick as fleas on a dog.’ They were targeted for treatment, but in May 2019, Biosecurity Queensland had a backlog of 6299 untreated nests in Logan and even more in July. By November 2019, Biosecurity Queensland was sending out teams to throw a one-off cocktail of chemicals at some of the backlog, with no follow-up inspections, just to reduce the numbers. If the Mercy Circuit site was treated in July 2019, there is a good chance the fire ants are still there.
Dozens and dozens of new housing estates in south-east Queensland would not be infested if Biosecurity Queensland accepted its responsibility to control the movement of fire ants in south-east Queensland. Despite spending $500m so far, with an annual budget of $42m, Biosecurity Queensland has abrogated this responsibility.
Industry representatives have tried to get Biosecurity Queensland to accept its responsibility.
They have asked Biosecurity Queensland to reinstate 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.
Industry representatives have asked Biosecurity Queensland to reintroduce 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.
Industry representatives have asked Biosecurity Queensland to approve land development applications, subject to them containing suitable fire ant management plans. Biosecurity Queensland has not.
Industry representative have asked Biosecurity Queensland to control the movement of fire ant carriers in and out of biosecurity zones, including weekend markets. Biosecurity Queensland does not.
It is time for a Royal Commission to hold Biosecurity Queensland, the Fire Ant Program Steering Committee and Queensland Minister for Agriculture, Mark Furner to account for the waste of $500m of public money and a fire ant infestation that is more than twelve times what it was when they were detected in 2001 and is now out of control.