Fire ants kill people, destroy crops and could spell the end to the great Australian barbie! So it is time to pull out all the stops and get the community on board to understand the threat.
Following accusations that Australia’s fire ant eradication program had struggled from ‘a lack of funding and a cumbersome, secretive structure’ a meeting between state, territory and the federal government on Wednesday July 26 signed off on a ten-year, $411.4 million plan to eradicate the ants.
‘Our fire ant fighters have finally been given the war chest they need to eradicate deadly fire ants from Australia,’ Invasive Species Council CEO Andrew Cox said.
‘This will be one of the largest biosecurity operations ever undertaken in Australia. It will be a long, hard fight, but is essential if we are to keep the country safe from the ravages of fire ants.
Fire ants are a serious environmental, human and agricultural pest in Australia. If not eradicated they will have a greater impact on Australia than rabbits, cane toads, foxes, camels, wild dogs and feral cats combined, costing more than $1 billion each year.
In the US where they are now out of control fire ants have caused the deaths of almost 100 people, wiped out native species and impacted on all aspects of life.
‘Only recently a new outbreak was uncovered 70km north of the fire ant biosecurity zone around Brisbane,’ Mr Cox said.
‘Thankfully the Sunshine Coast reaction was rapid and well publicised, responded well to community concerns and should be a model for the program in the future. But the discovery clearly demonstrates that Australia is running out of time to eradicate this destructive menace.’
Mr Cox commended the leadership shown in securing the decision at the meeting of agriculture ministers who supported more than doubling the fire anteradication budget, the 10-year eradication plan and a new steering committee and independent chair to keep the program on track.