In response to CSIRO’s scathing review in December 2020 of the scientific principles and movement controls of the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program (NRIFAEP), both the New South Wales government and the Victorian government no longer accept Queensland government fire-ant free accreditation of fire ant carriers into their markets.
Fire ant carriers include plants and plant products, agricultural equipment, used packages, earth and landscaping materials including potting media, organic mulch and composted animal manure. Both New South Wales and Victorian restrictions apply to potted plants coming from properties with 5km of a confirmed fire ant nest: ie within Biosecurity Queensland’s Interstate Plant Quarantine Area. This vast area covers almost all of Brisbane City, all of Ipswich, Logan and Redland Cities and a large part of Gold Coast City. It spreads from Moreton Bay in the east to Lake Clarendon in the Lockyer Valley 100km to the west. It includes parts of the Moreton Bay Region and Somerset Region in the north and parts of the Scenic Rim Region 100km to the south.
CSIRO said Biosecurity Queensland’s fire ant movement controls have failed to respond to a major shift in the fire ant population in south east Queensland. Fire ant program controls have focussed on preventing the spread of a mainly polygyne population. Polygyne fire ants spread by budding: a young queen will build her nest close to her parental nest. The fire ant infestation in south east Queensland is now dominated by monogyne fire ants which spreads when young queens fly many kilometres from their parental nest to build their own. This means Biosecurity Queensland needs to place greater emphasis on protecting stockpiled product from infestation by young airborne queens. It also questions the value of Biosecurity Queensland’s property inspections and declarations of property freedom if neighbouring properties are infested.
The New South Wales government announced, effective 2 November 2020, that Queensland issued Interstate Certification Assurance ICA-40 Property Freedom of Plants for Red Imported Fire Ant, from properties within a 5km radius of a confirmed fire ant detection was no longer acceptable as a stand alone means of gaining access to NSW markets. The date was extended to 30th April 2021.
The Victorian government announced, effective 15th June 2021, that Queensland issued Interstate Certification Assurance ICA-40 Property Freedom of Plants for Red Imported Fire Ant, from properties within a 5km radius of a confirmed fire ant detection was no longer acceptable as a stand-alone means of gaining access to Victorian markets. Products may be re-consigned, if detected and penalties may apply.
To be able to enter their markets, both the New South Wales and Victorian governments now require additional certification for potted plants from within Queensland’s Interstate Plant Quarantine Area that states the potted plants have been chemically treated. This additional cost could put small producers in south-east Queensland out of business.
From the beginning of the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program in September 2001, Biosecurity Queensland has failed to respond to the most serious threat of fire ants spreading – human-assisted movement – people carelessly or accidentally moving truck or trailer loads of fire ant carriers like soil, potted plants, turf, hay, organic mulch and composted growing media, animal manure, gravels, sand and non-soil aggregates from infested areas to fire ant free areas.
Time for a Royal Commission.
15th May 2021