Funding, eradication priorities in fight against fire ants

Fire ants
Fire ants

A NATIONAL commitment to eradicate one of the world’s worst invasive species, the red imported fire ant (RIFA), has been reinforced with further confirmation of funding to the National Fire Ant Eradication Program.

All governments have now locked in funding to deliver the four-year response plan.

These commitments maintain important momentum of the national eradication effort, endorsed by all jurisdictions through the Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting.

Since the first detection in 2001 in Southeast Queensland, the Australian Government along with all states and territories, have been committed to the eradication of RIFA.

Minister for Agriculture Murray Watt said the national commitment to this biosecurity response was a critical step towards eradication of RIFA.

“The Albanese Government has locked in a record funding commitment of $296m over the next four years as its contribution to the eradication program,” he said.

“Eradicating fire ants is not an easy task – many countries have tried and failed, but we have been largely successful in containing their spread.

“Without the 20-plus year eradication program, led by the Queensland Government, RIFA would likely have spread from south-east Queensland north to Bowen, west to Longreach and as far south as Canberra.

“The funding will see the 2023-27 Response Plan, worth a total of $592.8 million, deliver stronger containment and more aggressive treatment, demanding a more rapid scale-up of effort across a broader operational area and eventual eradication.

“The plan uses the best available science, technology, and innovative approaches to deliver efficiencies and maximise resource allocation.”

This important confirmation of funding comes days after another RIFA detection in Ballina in northern NSW.

The nest was destroyed immediately and a control order was placed within a 5km radius of the site, restricting the movement of soil in the area.

Minister Watt said the Albanese Government, in partnership with the Minns and Miles governments, was committed to halting the southward march of the fire ant.

“After a decade of cuts to biosecurity by the National Party, we had been fighting the fire ant with one hand tied behind our back.

“That’s why locking in this funding from all levels of government is so important.

“Given the risk fire ants pose, it’s astonishing that David Littleproud has said we ‘shouldn’t give any more money’ to the states to fight them.

“The Albanese Government believes we should use every weapon at our disposal to keep them at bay.”

RIFA is one of the world’s worst invasive ant pests, because of its harmful effects on people, agriculture, flora and fauna, infrastructure and recreational activities.

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