24 April 2010

All Australian states and the Commonwealth agree to fire ant eradication funding

Minister for Primary Industries, Fisheries and Rural and Regional Queensland

The Honourable Tim Mulherin


All states and the Commonwealth agree to fire ant eradication funding

Minister for Primary Industries, Fisheries and Rural and Regional Queensland Tim Mulherin said he was pleased with the ongoing commitment to fire ant eradication showed by all states at yesterday's Primary Industries Ministerial Council in Darwin.

Mr Mulherin said all states and the Commonwealth agreed that this is a battle that needs ongoing funding to allow the continuation of the effective treatment program and the development of remote sensing technology to eradicate fire ants.

"Scientific trials have been conducted in the use of high tech imagery for the purpose of detecting fire ant colonies using remote sensing technology, the securing of ongoing funding allows the completion of this testing," Mr Mulherin said.

"Helicopters have flown over 243 known mounds and captured 2033 hectares of imagery data.

"This data is currently being analysed by staff from Biosecurity Queensland and the University of Sydney, with preliminary results expected in November.

"Modeling shows that alternative, cost-effective, surveillance techniques are essential to the continuing viability of the eradication program," Mr Mulherin said.

Mr Mulherin said the National Management Group will now consider the detail of Queensland's $21 million funding proposal for the 2010-11 financial year.

"While the remote sensing technology is refined over the next two years an aggressive containment program will be deployed so fire ants do not spread further," Mr Mulherin said.

"We believe eradication is possible, we know that if we can find the ants we can kill them. The issue is finding better ways to detect the ants.

"The battle against fire ants can still be won, but an adequate funding program must continue to be supported by all States and the Commonwealth to improve technology, employ staff and promote community awareness."

Mr Mulherin said while the area of infestation has expanded, the level of infestation remains low and Queensland remains confident that eradication is feasible.

"This has been the wettest summer we've had since eradication started in 2001 and conditions have been perfect for fire ants to spread," Mr Mulherin said.

"We've recently trained an additional 64 fire ant field staff, bringing the number of staff fighting fire ants to more than 150.

"More strategic methods of operation have also been developed resulting in increased detections in high risk areas.

"Biosecurity Queensland has also run a successful media campaign to raise awareness amongst the general public of the risks fire ants pose, resulting in an increase in the number of detections reported by the public," he said.

With adequate funding from all State Governments and the Federal Government, Biosecurity Queensland can continue to apply these effective methods of detection and eradication of fire ants, to prevent their spread to other states of Australia.

This initiative will be
welcomed by the people
of southeast Queensland.

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