Fire ant border check call

There are calls for border checks between Queensland and New South Wales to check the march of fire ants south.

Jul 26, 2023, updated Jul 26, 2023
Photo: AAP

Photo: AAP

NSW farmers want the state government to consider fire ant border checks, saying the risk was increased due to the level of hay being sourced from Queensland.

“We are asking the question at the moment, whether or not that would be a useful management tool, where trucks, commercial operators carrying produce and soil, hay and cattle, would be checked,” beef producer Craig Huf said.

Huf said the fire ant threat is not just about what injuries the pest could inflict on his cattle, he’s also concerned about what impact a quarantine zone would have.

“When you get into lockdown on a farm, it’s just a nightmare to try and manage that,” he said.

Moriarty wouldn’t comment on whether border checkpoints would be considered, but her Queensland counterpart Mark Furner said he would look into it.

“Those sorts of measures would be difficult to manage but I’m willing to have those discussions with my New South Wales counterpart,” he said.

On Tuesday, authorities confirmed they’re changing tactics in to fight the menace with an outside-in approach to be taken in Queensland.

“It’s a plan that will see a horseshoe configuration … where they’ll be suppressed and eradicated,” Furner said on Tuesday, adding that the previous strategy worked from west to east.

The plan was agreed to by the country’s agriculture ministers a fortnight ago but is still not publicly available.

The treatment program to prevent queens from reproducing will span from Moreton Bay in the north, west to the Lockyer Valley, east into the Gold Coast and south to the Tweed Shire.

The discovery last week of a fire ant nest at a pony club on the Gold Coast just five kilometres from the NSW-Queensland border has been linked to human movement.

It triggered a biosecurity crackdown from NSW with the government prohibiting the movement of materials that could bring the ant into the state.

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Mulch, soil, baled hay, turf and other high-risk material cannot be moved from within a 5km radius of the site without inspection and certification by Queensland authorities.

But Huf questioned how it was being policed.

“We have no detail on that question,” he said.

On Tuesday, it was confirmed the new national strategy would include a crackdown on compliance in Queensland, which is leading the response.

“It’s important that people understand their obligations when they’re moving materials around the area or outside of the area,” Furner said.

The highly destructive ant is native to South America but has been in Australia since 2001 when they were found in Brisbane.

Several significant detections have been made in southeast Queensland since April as the invasive species marches south.

A 2021 review of the national strategy identified that at least $3 billion was needed over the next five years to wipe out the pest.

“Just bite the bullet early now and spend the money and get this eradicated,” Huf said.

– with AAP

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