16 C
Byron Shire
September 21, 2021

Fire ants a flaming threat from the very near north

Latest News

September 21: NNSWLHD COVID update and Byron-Tweed lockdown

The Northern NSW Local Health District held a press conference at Lismore Base Hospital this afternoon.

Other News

Goonellabah drive-thru COVID testing this weekend at GSAC

With the community in lockdown, Lismore City Council says it is important for to get tested for COVID-19, even if you only have the mildest of symptoms. 

Police arrest 32 in protests across the state

Police say they have prevented the mass gathering of people in various locations across NSW, arresting 32 people and issuing 265 Penalty Infringement Notices in a coordinated and mobile response to planned protest activity.

Pizzaholic love

Over the past 18 years at Earth ‘n’ Sea Pizza, Denise and David have always appreciated the support from...

Long COVID and the science, so far…

Increasing COVID-19 vaccination rates as quickly as possible is currently a major focus for Australia.

Local mum features in documentary about the impacts and possible solutions around suicide

Murwillumbah mum Ursula has lived every parents worst nightmare – her child, at the age of just 17, took his own life – and a lot of time and energy, questions and conjecture and finger-pointing can rumble around this, but at the end of the day Ursula’s precious boy is gone and he’s not coming back.

COVID update – sewage detection in East and South Lismore and Byron Bay

Northern NSW Local Health District is urging people in the Lismore City and Byron Bay areas to get tested for COVID-19, after fragments of the virus were detected in samples from the East Lismore, South Lismore and Byron Bay sewage treatment plants.

Red fire ant found in Brisbane. AAP Image/Department of Primary Industries, Queensland
Red fire ant found in Brisbane. AAP Image/Department of Primary Industries, Queensland

Fire ants are threatening northern NSW and central Queensland and the current eradication program is not up to the job, according to a recent government report. A senate motion by Greens senator Janet Rice forced the federal government to release an independent review of the eradication program revealing that it is failing to contain the fire ant threat.

‘Red fire ants have the potential to do more damage that rabbits, cane toads, foxes, camels, wild dogs and feral cats combined,’ said Senator Rice.

No action

‘The minister has sat on this independent review since at least May of this year and has failed to take proper action. When the benefit will be at least $25 for every $1 spent, it’s a no-brainer to take the necessary and cost-effective action to eradicate the red fire ant.’

The South American fire ants were first detected in Brisbane in 2001 and are believed to have been accidentally introduced, possibly via a shipping container from the US. The fire ant is considered a serious threat to the environment, agriculture, tourism and the outdoor Australian lifestyle as they inhabit open grassland area such as agricultural fields and sports and picnic grounds.

Known to prey upon local wildlife including frogs, snakes and ground-dwelling birds, the ants will clear the area where they nest of local wildlife and could cause the extinction of some ground-dwelling animals.

‘They are highly aggressive, sting en masse and in high numbers,’ said Andrew Cox of the Invasive Species Council.

International studies reveal that without an effective eradication strategy the overall impact on Australia’s agricultural industry would ‘result in a reduction in agricultural output of ten per cent for cropping, 20 per cent for livestock and 40 per cent for beef.’

According to the independent review of Australia’s $330 million fire ants eradication program this would have immediate effect on Queensland’s Lockyer Valley and scenic rim farming communities where fire ants are already present in low numbers.

Fruit pickers and other agricultural workers would be significantly affected by the ant colonies. They can also cause the death of small livestock animals such as calves and lambs owing to the aggressive swarming and attacking nature of the ants. Where fire ants are located in paddocks farmers would be unable to graze livestock and would have the added costs of eradication of the ants in these areas, noted Cox.

Painful burning

The sting causes painful burning and itching in humans and in rare cases can cause a severe allergic reaction. ‘If not eradicated, by 2030 fire ants will cost our healthcare system about 140,000 medical consultations and 3,000 anaphylactic reactions each year and possible deaths.’

A spokesperson for the minister of agriculture and deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, said, ‘The Agricultural Ministers’ Forum has agreed with the findings of the independent review that eradication remains technically feasible, cost-beneficial and in the national interest.’

However, the deputy prime minister’s office refused to take responsibility for not releasing the report stating: ‘The decision to release the independent review report is not up to the deputy prime minister and is a decision for Commonwealth, state and territory agricultural ministers.’

The ants have been detected in Port Botany, southeast Queensland and the Gold Coast. ‘This secret government report shows eradication is still possible and in our nation’s interest but the time to act is rapidly diminishing,’ Cox said. The report states that a ten-year treatment and surveillance program with a budget of $38 million each year is needed to eradicate the invasion.

Headed for NSW

‘The fire ant can be spread through the movement of soil, plants and hay,’ said Cox. ‘Naturally, they move about two kilometres per year. They could get to the border [of NSW] within five years and if they make it that far they will be there forever.’

‘State and federal governments need to stop sitting on their hands while red fire ants threaten Queensland’s precious natural areas,’ said Australian Greens deputy leader and senator for Queensland, Larissa Waters.

‘Get on with eradication already.’

Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.


  1. Fire ants are multiplying and threatening northern NSW and central Queensland in their spread in more than a picnic table while the current government eradication program is only half-hearted. Politicians again are not putting the funding into where it is needed according to a recent government report.

  2. Like so many other damaging pests, giant devil’s figs, cane toads, camphor laurels etc etc etc and now Fire ants, let’s just leave it until it’s too late again, shall we??? We are sailing on a Ship of Fools!!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Entertainment in the Byron Shire for the week beginning 22 September, 2021

Please check, at the end of lockdown to see whats on.

Speech pathology student numbers soar at SCU

The number of domestic applications for the undergraduate speech pathology course at Southern Cross University have increased 79 per cent compared to the same time last year.

BREAKING: Byron and Tweed shires go into week-long lockdown

Stay-at-home orders will be introduced for the Byron Shire, Tweed and Kempsey Local Government Areas (LGAs) from 5pm today for seven days due to an increased COVID-19 public health risk.

Ballina charity ball to raise funds for men’s mental health

Locals will have the chance to support local men with their mental health when the Night of Hope Charity Ball takes place in Ballina on October Ball.