Independent review of the national red imported fire ant eradication program – April 2016

The final report of the independent review panel commissioned by the Agriculture Ministers’ Forum. The report was commissioned in November  2014 and provided to the Agriculture Ministers’ Forum in May 2016.

The report reviewed the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program, advised whether the the south east Queensland infestation has been successfully delimited and outlined options for achieving eradication or long-term containment of red fire ants from south east Queensland.

The report found a ‘compelling case for unified national action to fund the continuation of the eradication program in south east Queensland’. It also found:

  • There is a 95% probability that eradication will be achieved in 10 years, given a treatment, surveillance and program budget of $38 million each year.
  • There is ‘only a small window of opportunity left’ to eradicate red fire ants.
  • If not eradicated, fire ants will become Australia’s worst pest, worse than the combined impacts from rabbits, cane toads, foxes, camels, wild dogs and feral cats, which cost Australia an estimated $964 million each year.
  • The total impact of fire ants to southeast Australia alone is estimated at up to $45 billion over the next 30 years.
  • All state and federal governments have spent a total of $329 million  since 2001 eradicating fire ants from Australia.
  • If the eradication program had not been mounted from 2001, fire ants in Brisbane would now have spread south to Sydney and north to Mackay and Rockhampton.
  • If not eradicated, by 2030 fire ants will cost our healthcare system about 140,000 medical consultations and 3000 anaphylactic reactions each year and possible deaths.
  • Recent funding shortfalls have meant fire ants have reinfested treated areas.
  • 12 more detection dogs and increased community engagement are needed.
  • Fire ants are a risk to ground-dwelling animals and will cause the extinction of some species.
  • Fire ant infestations in broad scale agricultural areas would result in a reduction in agricultural output of 10% for cropping, 20% for livestock and 40% for beef, immediately affecting Queensland’s Lockyer Valley and scenic rim farming communities where fire ants are already present in low numbers.

The independent review panel consisted of Bill Magee, chair, Dr David Oi, John Parkes, Dr David Adamson, Nin Hyne, Deborah Langford, Royce Holtkamp and Prof. Simon Lawson.

The report was publicly released on 30 November 2016 after a motion by the Australia Senate seeking the report’s tabling (see the letter to the President of the Senate on the last page of the pdf download).

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