The Invasive Species Council have called on the Albanese Government to urgently commit to adequately fund fire ant eradication this year.
The call comes as 100 new fire ant nests have been detected on Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) and a dozen Morayfield, north of Brisbane – areas where eradication is not occurring in 2023/24 due to underfunding. New nests have also been found this week at Varsity Lakes on the southern Gold Coast.
‘Fire ant nests found on Minjerribah, at Morayfield and new nests found on the southern Gold Coast show fire ants are surging,’ said Invasive Species Council spokesperson Reece Pianta.
‘Government underfunding has left the door open and now fire ants are taking advantage of warmer weather to spread north and increase their density.
‘We know that eradication is still possible, but the failure of the Albanese Government to properly fund the program this year is leaving huge gaps in fire ant treatment and surveillance.’
‘We applaud recent border checkpoint efforts from New South Wales – but they cannot do it alone, federal government investment is needed.’
‘Less than half the funds needed this year are available to control and eradicate fire ants,’ Mr Pianta said.
The Invasive Species Council recently revealed leaked government documents that showed at least $133 million would be required in 2023/24 to contain and eradicate fire ants. Despite this, the Federal government announced that only $60 million would be made available this year.
‘Queensland and New South Wales have stumped up their share of the funding needed, but the federal government and every other state government have committed no new funding for fire ant eradication or control this year,’ said Mr Pianta.
‘Fire ants are not going to just wait until the next budget. They are on the march now and underfunding by the Albanese Government is a recipe for disaster.
‘It’s time to get eradication efforts back on track. We cannot afford to let them get out of control.’
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Fire ant multimedia to accompany this story is available here.
Background information on fire ants:
- 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).
- The 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 – this compares to $94 million spent in 2022/23 and only $60 million committed for this financial year.
- Recently Australia’s governments committed to ongoing fire ant eradication but have not yet committed any new funding to fight fire ants in Australia. Fire ant eradication is being led by the Queensland government but is funded by all Australian governments because fire ants are a threat to the whole country.
- 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.
- Almost all of Australia is climatically suitable for fire ants.
- So far, only Queensland ($61 million or 10.3% of the total needed 2023-27) and NSW ($95 million or 16%) have made public commitments in line with the cost sharing arrangements required for the full proposed fire ant response plan.