Who’s funding fire ant eradication?

Feral Herald |

In May 2016, the independent review of the red fire ant eradication program recommended that the program’s funding be enhanced from the current $18 million each year to $38 million each year.

So who will be paying to deliver this $38 million per year program for the 10 years needed to eradicate red fire ants from Australia?

In short, all governments of Australia will be paying. Funding will continue to be based on a national agreement where 50% is provided by the federal government with the balance of funding provided by each state and territory according to their population.

Determining state and territory government contributions

Normally each state and territory’s contribution would further depend on how each state would benefit from the program, based on the predicted uncontrolled spread of the invasive species in question. Those states that would ultimately end up with more of their state impacted by the particular pest or disease would pay proportionally more. However, for red fire ants ABARES climate modelling (see figure 1 below) predicts that between 99 and 100% of each mainland state and territory is susceptible to fire ants, while about 80% of Tasmania is likely to be affected. Tasmania thus pays a little less on a per capita basis.

Table 1 below shows the amount currently paid by each government and the amount proposed under the enhanced program.


Table 1: Respective government contributions to the national red fire ant eradication program, current (2016-17) and proposed under the enhanced $38 million per year eradication program.

Government % share1 Current2 $ Proposed $
Federal 50.0%  7,500,000  19,000,000
NSW 16.9%  2,535,000  6,422,000
Vic 12.4%  1,860,000  4,712,000
Qld 9.4%  1,410,000  3,572,000
WA 4.9%  735,000  1,862,000
SA 3.9%  585,000  1,482,000
Tas 1.2%  180,000  456,000
ACT 0.8%  120,000  304,000
NT 0.5%  75,000  190,000
Qld extra2  3,000,000  –
Total 100.0%  18,000,000  38,000,000


  1. Source: Standing Council of Primary Industries 3 May 2013 meeting resolution Annex B table 1. In 2017 the Invasive Species Council was informed that the % breakdown has been slightly modified for the program after July 2017 but has not received any figures.
  2. Allocations for 2016-17 per government based on $15 million expenditure.
  3. Queensland government contributed between $3M and $5.9M in additional funds each year from 2010-11 to 2015-16. Source: Magee, B. et. al. 2016. Independent review of the national red imported fire ant eradication program.


Figure 1: Indication of areas in Australia suitable for red fire ants based on climate potential. 10 indicates a close match. Map produced by ABARES in 2008 for the national red fire ant eradication program.
Figure 1: Indication of areas in Australia suitable for red fire ants based on climate potential. 10 indicates a close match. Map produced by ABARES in 2008 for the national red fire ant eradication program.

Spending over the last six years was supplemented by an additional $23.7 million from Queensland (20-40% on top of each year’s $15 million eradication budget) in recognition of the importance of eradication to their state and to encourage other states to fund for multi-year periods. For some years, Queensland was the largest funding contributor.

Western Australia stopped contributing to the eradication program for three years prior to 2017 due to their concerns about the running of the program and the belief that they could keep red fire ants from reaching their state.

Eradication spending as a proportion of biosecurity budgets

The Invasive Species Council has undertaken further analysis to compare each state’s contribution as a proportion of their current yearly agriculture expenditure. Where a government’s biosecurity expenditure could be determined, this percentage was also provided.

For South Australia, the enhanced red fire ant eradication program would make up 4.9% of their biosecurity budget or this year, followed by Queensland (3.2%) and the federal government (2.8%).

As a proportion of each government’s entire agriculture expenditure this year, the enhanced eradication funding would make up on average 1.2% of total expenditure, with the federal government (1.9%), Western Australia (1.6%) and Victoria (1.3%) exceeding the average.  Table 2 below provides a full breakdown of these percentages.

Table 2: Proposed enhanced red fire ant eradication ($38m/year) as a proportion of government agriculture and biosecurity budgeted spending for 2016-17.


Proposed $000

Total agriculture  budget 2016-17 $000


Biosecurity budget 2016-17 $000































































  • All governments except ACT fund red fire ant eradication and other biosecurity activities from their agriculture portfolios.
  • n/a – figures not readily available.
  • Sourced from State budget papers and advice received from departmental officers.


The eradication of red fire ants is a truly national program, funding by all governments based on each government’s capacity to pay and the extent that the fire ant will infest that state in the longer term.

All Australian’s should be rightly concerned about the prospect of fire ants directly impacting their lives – whether it is making their backyards and picnic areas unusable, impacting their business, or damaging the environment they value. We should therefore be demanding that our state or territory government and the federal government allocate the needed funds to do the job of eradicating the ants.


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Help protect NSW!

Our expert team has written a list of policy asks detailing exactly what the next NSW government needs to do to stamp out some of the worst invasive species impacts across the state. But they will only become a reality if every key political candidate at the 2023 NSW state election hears about it from you!

Dear National Deer Management Coordinator,

Please accept this as a submission to the National Feral Deer Action Plan.

[Your personalised message will appear here] 

I am very concerned about the spread of deer and am pleased that a national plan has finally been developed. Without urgent action, funding and commitment from all levels of government it is clear that feral deer will continue to spread and damage our environment.

The feral deer population in Australia is growing rapidly and spreading across the country, damaging our natural environment, causing havoc for farmers and foresters and threatening public safety. Unlike much of the world where deer are native, our plants and wildlife haven’t evolved to deal with these heavy hard hooved animals with a voracious appetite.
With no natural predators and an ability to adapt to almost all environments, they could occupy almost all of Australia unless stopped. Despite this, state and territory governments have been slow to respond and in Victoria and Tasmania they are still protected by law for the enjoyment of hunters.

This plan should be adopted by all governments but must also be underpinned by dedicated funding and clear responsibilities. A plan without funding or accountability is a plan that will fail and Australia cannot afford for this to fail.

In order to prevent the spread of feral deer and reduce their impact on our native wildlife, ecosystems and agriculture, I ask that the following recommendations be adopted for the final National Feral Deer Action Plan:

1. All federal, state and territory governments should adopt the National Feral Deer Action Plan and declare feral deer to be a priority pest animal species.

2. All federal, state and territory governments should commit to:

  • Contain deer to the existing large population areas.
  • Reduce and eradicate smaller and isolated populations.
  • Protect important environmental assets such as world and national heritage areas.
  • Develop and fund regional plans and strategies to manage deer populations which involve land managers across all tenures.

3. In order to drive action and the success of this plan, there should be dedicated Commonwealth funding and support for:

  • A permanent national feral deer coordinator position.
  • A permanent federal feral deer action committee with representatives from the commonwealth and state and territory governments and the environmental and agricultural sectors.
  • An ongoing public education campaign on feral deer.
  • A network of regional feral deer coordinators to drive local action across tenures.

4. The expected outcomes for the plan need to be more ambitious, with clear interim targets including:

  • Within one year, all States and Territories should have in place arrangements to implement the National Feral Deer Action Plan, including allocating dedicated funding for implementation.
  • Within one year, feral deer management plans should be developed for key environmental assets of national significance, including the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, the Greater Blue Mountains, the Australian Alps, the Gondwana Rainforests and the Wet Tropics of Queensland.
  • Within five years coordinated landscape scale management should be in place where land owners, land managers, government and community are demonstrably working together.

5. A national feral deer containment map with three zones should be adopted. It should be more ambitious than the zone map in the current draft plan and there should be greater clarity in the naming of the zones. Improvements that should be adopted include:

  • Renaming the zones to better reflect the management intention to ‘Containment Zone 1’ (the current large population zone), ‘Containment Buffer Zone 2’ (the current buffer zone) and ‘Eradication and prevention Zone 3’ (the current small isolated population zone).
  • The NSW northern rivers area should be in the eradication and prevention zone as there are few feral deer currently in this region and eradicating isolated populations and preventing spread into this area is still possible.
  • The whole of South Australia should be in the eradication and prevention zone as eradication is the goal of the SA Government.
  • The Tasmanian region in the containment zone should be smaller to reflect greater ambition and potential for eradication of deer populations.
  • In eastern Victoria areas such as Wilson’s Promontory, Westernport islands and the Mornington Peninsula should be in the eradication and prevention zone.

6. There should be consistent laws and regulations across all states and territories that:

  • Recognise feral deer as a pest animal and treat them as such.
  • Establish a clear responsibility for all landholders and managers to be involved in feral deer control programs.
  • Set clear penalties to stop the wilful or negligent release of feral deer.
  • Prevent new deer farms in areas where no feral deer are present and phase out all deer farms in the eradication and prevention zone.
  • Enable enforcement of compliance, including on government land.

I support the follow principles being adopted in the final National Feral Deer Action Plan:

  • Feral deer are a pest and should be treated as such on all tenures, except on approved deer farms.
  • Federal, state and territory governments have a responsibility to fund the outcomes under this plan.
  • All land managers in areas where feral deer are present have a responsibility to be involved in feral deer control programs.
  • The focus of management efforts should be on eradication of isolated, satellite populations, protection of key environmental assets currently impacted and stopping the spread to new regions.
  • Feral deer control should be undertaken humanely, safely and professionally according to agreed protocols and all tools which meet this criteria should be adopted, including aerial control.
  • Funding for coordination, regional planning and community engagement is necessary for effective feral deer management.
  • Ongoing management and follow up control efforts are required to achieve long lasting results.
  • Rules and regulations should be consistent across jurisdictions and land tenures.
  • Recreational hunting is not an effective strategy for feral deer control and should not be relied upon.
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