Announcements by both the Liberal and Labor parties that they will contribute at least half the needed funds to eradicate yellow crazy ants from Queensland’s Wet Tropics rainforests if elected as the next federal government is welcome news, but there remains a worrying shortfall.
“The announcement today of $8.8 million from Warren Entsch, Liberal MP for Leichhardt, and yesterday’s $7.5 million by Sharon Howes, Labor’s candidate, is warmly welcomed,” Invasive Species Council CEO Andrew Cox said today.
“To be spent over three years, these funds represent about half the needed funds for the planned $15.3 million eradication program.”
But despite this good news, there remains a $3.5-$4.8 million funding shortfall. This is even with the Queensland government’s promise of $3 million made at the end of April 2016. Funding for the current eradication program runs out at the end of June.
“An underfunded eradication program is almost as bad as no funding,” Mr Cox said.
“If we fail to stop yellow crazy ants because we tried to do it on the cheap, the money spent until now will have been be wasted.
“Yellow crazy ants, if not eradicated, are set to transform the World Heritage listed Wet Tropics rainforests forever. When the acid-spraying ants form super colonies they kill all insect life, small birds, lizards and mammals.
“If not eradicated, they may result in the extinction of the cassowary and the Kuranda tree frog.
“The ants stop fruit trees from producing and ruin sugar cane paddocks. Residents would be impacted from wrecked electrical appliances, blinded pets and unusable backyards.”
There are two major yellow crazy ant infestations covering 830 hectares at Edmonton, south of Cairns, and Kuranda.
An open letter from a cross-section of local government, business, environmental and farming interests was released last week calling on the federal and state governments to fully fund the eradication program.
A petition calling for support from the Queensland government was launched by the Cairns and Far North Environment Centre yesterday.
“We praise the efforts of local member Warren Entsch for his constructive role in securing the commitment from environment minister Greg Hunt and deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce,” Mr Cox said. The coalition funding commitment includes funds for community and industry to undertake detection, early intervention and management of invasive ants.
“We also congratulate Labor for matching most of the coalition’s proposal.
“The shortfall must be urgently resolved. We call on the Queensland and federal governments to urgently sit down after the federal election to come up with the missing funds.”
- Andrew Cox 0438 588 040