Writings: Fire ants infest new housing estate in Spring Mountain, Ipswich City, SEQ. Inside Fire Ant Program area since 2001. With $600m Biosecurity Queensland can't stop fire ants spreading. Time for a Royal Commission.

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Fire ants are infesting new housing estates in Spring Mountain, in Ipswich City in south-east Queensland.

‘Spring Mountain is completely infested with fire ants,’ a witness reported, ‘all in new (housing) estates.’  ‘Each site had a fire ant nest…nearly always on the footpath. Nobody is containing them,’ they said. ‘They should be walking the streets. They are that bad. They take three weeks, minimum, to get to them,’ the witness said.

More evidence that Biosecurity Queensland’s National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program is an utter failure. $600m of public money wasted so far and fire ants continue to spread and re-infest treated areas.

This was inevitable.

Spring Mountain and nearby suburbs Springfield, Springfield Lakes and Springfield Central have been inside Biosecurity Queensland’s Fire Ant Eradication Program operational area since 2001 and treated many times. Fire ants continue to infest the area.

According to Biosecurity Queensland’s $411.1m Ten Year Fire Ant Eradication Program 2017-18 to 2026-27, Spring Mountain, should have received its full complement of fire ant treatment by now and being monitored for human assisted movement of fire ants.  

It’s not.

Concerned about fire ants continuing to spread in south-east Queensland, representatives at an industry forum in May 2018 asked Biosecurity Queensland to:

  • re-instate the large team of Biosecurity Inspectors who worked with high-risk enterprises to develop risk management plans, to audit those plans and to prosecute those who did not comply.
  • Re-introduce the use of Approved (Fire Ant) Risk Management Plans for high-risk enterprises and Quality Assurance programs for suppliers of fire ant friendly materials.
  • Approve land development applications.
  • Control the movement of fire ant carriers in and out of fire ant biosecurity zones.

They didn’t.

In November 2019, the independent Efficiency and Effectiveness Review deemed the program’s compliance response ‘unacceptable.’

The reviewer found the program’s 912 compliance checks in 2018-19 was better than just 543 in 2017-18, but:

  • 10% cases of non-compliance were deemed ‘not serious’
  • 30% of non-compliant cases were not resolved within a month.
  • Only 6 non-compliance orders issued.
  • No prosecutions for non-compliance.
  • The Compliance Team was seriously understaffed – only eight of thirteen positions filled.

Consequently, nine of the significant detections found beyond the Fire Ant Biosecurity Zone in 2018-19 were due to human-assisted movement.

The reviewer recommended more serious regulation of the movement of fire ant carriers and inspection of carrier materials at their point of origin.

Obviously, this is not happening.

Time for a Royal Commission to hold Biosecurity Queensland to account for the waste of $600m of public money and for a fire ant infestation that has blown out from 40,000ha in 2001 to 650,000ha and continues to spread out of control.

5th February 2021