The Invasive Species Council has welcomed the ACT Government’s announcement today of a $5.098 million funding commitment supporting fire ant eradication in Australia and called on Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania to urgently step up with their share of funding.
Advocacy Manager for the Invasive Species Council, Reece Pianta, said:
‘This is important leadership from the ACT Government in the battle to stop one of the worst super pests invading the whole of Australia.
“The ACT have now joined New South Wales, Queensland and the federal government in committing their fair share toward the current four year, $592 million fire ant eradication funding agreement.
‘But there is still a $135 million hole in the current program’s funding because of bureaucratic delay and dithering by Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania.
“It’s time for those other states to follow the ACT’s lead and step up before it’s too late.
“Fire ants are one of the world’s worst super pests and, if they are allowed to spread across the continent, their impact will be greater than cane toads, rabbits, feral cats and foxes combined.
“They will devastate Australia’s environment and agriculture, cost our economy billions annually and we could see over 140,000 extra medical visits every year as they sting Australians at the park or in the backyard.
“It doesn’t matter if you are in Perth or Penrith, Bendigo or Byron Bay, the whole of Australia will be invaded if fire ants are not eradicated in south east Queensland.
“It’s in the interests of every state in Australia to urgently fund the eradication efforts in Queensland and now in NSW.
“Earlier this year, Victoria intercepted a fire ant Queen on a freight pallet from Queensland. Victoria is lucky the system caught it this time, but every year we fail to eradicate these super pests, increasing the odds they will sneak into other parts of Australia.
“Fire ants were also found in Fremantle, Western Australia, in 2019. This infestation was declared eradicated in October 2023,”
‘Eradicating fire ants from Australia is the only way to prevent them from breaking containment and spreading across Australia.”
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Fire ant multimedia to accompany this story is available here.
- Six nests were reported by a property owner in South Murwillumbah in north-eastern NSW, 13 kilometres south of the Queensland border
- NSW DPI, Fire Ant Eradication Teams from Queensland and Tweed Shire Council staff chemically eradicated the infestation and are now systematically checking nearby properties.
- An emergency biosecurity order is now in place across a radius of five kilometres from the site in South Murwillumbah. This restricts movement of fire ant carrier materials: mulch, woodchips, compost, sand, gravel, soil, hay and other baled products.
- Fire ants are dark reddish-brown with a darker black-brown abdomen and range in size from two to six millimetres long. Their ant nests are distinctive mounds of loose, crumbly or fluffy-looking soil with a honeycomb appearance, up to 40 centimetres high, with no obvious entrance holes.
- Red imported fire ants can damage electrical and agricultural equipment, sting people, pets and livestock, kill native plants and animals, and damage ecosystems beyond repair.
- Those who breach the emergency biosecurity order could face significant penalties with fines for breaches reaching up to $1.1 million for an individual and up to $2.2 million for a corporation.
- A ten-year proposed eradication program has been developed, with $592 million required in the first 4 years. The NSW, Queensland, Commonwealth and now ACT governments have committed to their portion of funding for this, but the program is still $135 million underfunded because no commitments have been made yet by the Victorian, South Australia, Western Australian and Tasmanian Governments.
- The 2021 National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program strategic review estimated that at least $200 to $300 million per year will be required for ongoing eradication efforts to achieve eradication by 2032.
- Fire ants can be lethal to humans, are expected to have a $2 billion per year impact on Australia’s economy if they get out of control, will devastate wildlife, cut agricultural output by up to 40% and may cause over one hundred thousand extra medical appointments each year.
- Fire ants can form rafts during flood events, stowaway in freight or soil, or spread by Queen ant flights of around 5 km per year (and up to 30 km in favourable conditions).
- Fire ants came into Australia in the late 90s in freight from the United States, they were found in 2001. Fire ants are originally from South America.
- Fire ants have spread across most of the southern United States, and are spreading in China at a rate of about 80 km per year. Australia has managed to contain fire ants in south east Queensland for 20 years however under-resourcing has prevented successful eradication.
- Almost all of Australia is climatically suitable for fire ants.