Writings: Flood waters pour through fire-ant infested parts of south-east Queensland. Fire ant nests float and spread. Biosecurity Queensland's treatment plan a shambles. Time for a Royal Commission.

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Again, flood waters poured through fire ant infested parts of south-east Queensland. Fire ant nests can float and spread.  Biosecurity Queensland’s treatment plan a shambles. Time for a Royal Commission.

Heavy rain in recent days flooded the Logan and Albert rivers that run through Logan City and the Scenic Rim Region and the Coomera and Nerang rivers that run through Gold Coast City – parts of south-east Queensland infested with fire ants.

 The red imported fire ant, now infesting over 650,000ha of south east Queensland, is well adapted to floods.

They arrived in Australia, sometime in the 1990s, via cargo from the USA. They originally came from the flood plains of central and southern South America where they adapted to regular flooding.  Fire ants have a waxy exterior that allows them to build a living raft by linking their legs together. They then float to a new, dry location and re-build their nest. How far have fire ants spread on these recent flood waters, Biosecurity Queensland?

Biosecurity Queensland’s treatment plan for a flood-adapted pest is a shambles.

The public report fire ant nests on their properties, as they have been asked to do, and understand that nests can’t be treated in wet weather.  But residents get angry when a second field team turns up to take samples after another team has already done that, and neither team treats the nests.  Residents rightly ask of the second team, ‘Why are you here?’  A good question Biosecurity Queensland, why are they there?

Residents can also reasonably ask why Biosecurity Queensland is sending out helicopters to spread fire ant bait over flood-soaked country when Biosecurity Queensland has told them wet bait does not work.

It can only be to improve the program’s aerial baiting statistics – not kill fire ants.  As the Queensland Audit Office said in 2017, Biosecurity Queensland only reports program inputs and activities – like flying hours, or bait used – not how many areas are now fire-ant free. The answer is – none.

Biosecurity Queensland’s fire ant treatment program is a shambles. Time for a Royal Commission to hold Biosecurity Queensland to account for the waste of $560m of public money and an out-of-control fire ant infestation.

29th March 2021