The NSW government says it has continued to take a hardline approach to the threat of imported red fire ants, as Minister for Agriculture Tara Moriarty announced successful results for Operation Victa in recent days.
Over the first weekend in February, Operation Victa activated another wave of security checks on heavy vehicles at the border between New South Wales and Queensland, turning back any non-compliant vehicles.
The NSW Department of Primary Industries and NSW Police, supported by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, stopped 100 high-risk vehicles at Chinderah to check loads and ensure biosecurity requirements were met.
Of the 100 vehicles stopped, 55 vehicles originated from the Red Imported Fire Ant infested zone in southeast Queensland.
Four vehicles didn’t comply with the requirement to hold relevant biosecurity documentation and were not permitted to enter the state. These vehicles also failed to have a clean truck and clean equipment to ensure all fire ant carrier materials had been removed.
Additional investigations will determine if additional enforcement actions are required.
Breaching the emergency biosecurity order carries penalties of up to $1.1 million for an individual and up to $2.2 million for a corporation.
All vehicle operators stopped at the border were questioned on their knowledge of the Biosecurity (Fire Ant) Emergency Order (No 1) 2024 during the inspection process. Authorities say the vast majority demonstrated their awareness and responsibility.
Ongoing biosecurity operation
Operation Victa is ongoing and will continue to target commercial movements of fire ant carrier material and specific heavy vehicle types to improve biosecurity compliance.
The first wave of Operation Victa in September 2023 stopped 99 vehicles and directed seven to return to Queensland, as they failed to comply with biosecurity requirements.
In December 2023, the second wave operation resulted in 75 vehicles stopped with all vehicles found to be compliant.
The government says it is working closely with the National Fire Ant Eradication Program to undertake tracing and surveillance activities, after fire ant nests were discovered and destroyed at South Murwillumbah and at Wardell, south of Ballina.
NSW Minister for Agriculture, Minister for Regional NSW, Minister for Western NSW, Tara Moriarty said, ‘The NSW government takes the threat of red fire ants seriously and are committed to continuing to take a hardline approach to protect NSW and our agricultural industry from their impacts.
‘I thank the NSW Department of Primary Industries, the NSW Police and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator for their coordinated response over the weekend,’ she said.
‘Businesses supplying and transporting potential fire ant materials need to understand the rules and we are providing information through many channels.
‘The NSW contribution to the National Fire Ant Eradication program was increased from $15 million under the former National Liberal NSW government to $95 million under our government because we take biosecurity seriously.
‘This increase in resourcing and funding has meant the NSW government’s fire ant response teams are well equipped to respond to fire ant nest sightings with the necessary urgency,’ said Ms Moriarty.