Pest expert slams Biosecurity Queensland do-it-yourself program allowing property owners to use chemicals to kill fire ants at home
An emerging southside suburb, where more than 30 fire ant nests were found at a new high school this year, will be used as a test site for a do-it-yourself program to kill the deadly pest.
Yarrabilba, an estate about 45 minutes drive south of Brisbane, was chosen as the pilot site after Biosecurity Queensland officers were forced to take emergency action in the grounds of Yarrabilba State Secondary College in March.
Fire Ant Eradication Program general manager Graeme Dudgeon said the pilot scheme allowed residents, farmers and developers to kill ants on their properties for the cost of a $40 bottle of insecticide from Bunnings.
But fire ant whistleblower Dr Pam Swepson said dumping the fire ant treatment responsibility on to the public was dangerous and passing the buck from government to private property owners.
“The program is getting paid millions to do this but now they are dumping the risk and the cost on property owners — it’s not fair and is dangerous,” she said.
“It is putting lives at risk by asking inexperienced individuals to approach a nest which can actually result in the nest splitting and spreading.
“Property owners who can’t afford the proper bait might just use petrol which is also dangerous and probably ineffective.
“This shows the department has been inefficient and now has a massive backlog of treatment sites which it can’t cope with.”
Dr Swepson said Queensland Health also had to change the Pest Management Act 2001, which governs consequences of people carrying out their own baiting.
Under the Biosecurity Queensland Act 2014, land owners with fire ants on their property are responsible for mitigating the risks of someone being stung or the ants spreading.
Mr Dudgeon told Logan City Council the fire ant program had stepped up a notch over the past year, relaxing rules around permits to allow anyone to kill the ants and also tightening response times to dealing with the pest.
He said changing the permit rules paved the way for councils and land owners to take a greater role patrolling the insect’s spread.
However, he warned there were risks of the DIY approach and said the baits should not be put near plants grown to eat and should be kept away from children and animals.
A Chambers Flat property owner was injured recently after dousing a nest in petrol and igniting, while an Ipswich police officer was treated for anaphylactic shock after approaching a nest and being stung many times.
“Logan is in the middle of the fire ant hot spot and is something we need to deal with,” he said.
“It is not in the eradication area which will move to Logan but it will take years for that to happen.
“We have to have ways to deal with fire ants in Logan in the meantime
“ … Of course we want people to still tell us about fire ants and report to us but we don’t have to come and kill them because anybody who has got them can kill them themselves.”