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$130M to fund fire ant battle on 'final frontier'

THE MASSIVE battle against a tiny pest is heating up as authorities prepare to make a stand at the final frontier - Ipswich.

Fire ants. The small, destructive pests were discovered in south-east Queensland in 2001 and have been invading the neighbouring territory since.

In July, all levels of government agreed on a $411.4 million plan to eradicate the ants before they march across the rest of Australia and wreak havoc on the environment and our agricultural sector.

The potential damage the tiny ants could cause, if left uncontrolled, has been estimated at between $5.3 billion and $45 billion over 20 to 70 years.

This week, the Queensland Government announced $130 million had been made available to secure long-term contract deals to fast track the war against fire ants.

The $130 million, to fund aerial baiting for example, will be spread over five years as Biosecurity officers begin the eradication program, moving east to west starting in the most infested areas.

That cash will also create jobs for 140 people across Queensland who will be employed as part of the eradication program, along with opportunities in air charter, bait manufacture and supply contracts.

Biosecurity Queensland director Geoff Kent, is heading up the fire ant eradication program and said the government wanted to make a big impact immediately, which was why the funding had been fast tracked.

Mr Kent explained 'the baiting' process which involves spreading corn laced with a specific poison from above via helicopters and by teams on the ground.

The fire ants take the poison back to the nest, killing the Queen and stopping the colony in its tracks.

He said Ipswich residents could expect to see those teams in action around the region in the coming months, starting further west before towards the city.

Director of the Fire Ant Eradication Program Geoff Kent with fire ants.
Director of the Fire Ant Eradication Program Geoff Kent with fire ants. David Nielsen

 

The most infested areas are the Lockyer Valley, Ipswich, Somerset and Scenic Rim regions.

Acting Agriculture Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said the use of helicopters allowed a larger area to be treated in a time and cost efficient manner.

Acting Agriculture Minister Dr Anthony Lynham (left) and Member for Ipswich West Jim Madden announce a major fire ant eradication program with fire ant search dogs Cola and Willow at Marburg.
Acting Agriculture Minister Dr Anthony Lynham (left) and Member for Ipswich West Jim Madden announce a major fire ant eradication program with fire ant search dogs Cola and Willow at Marburg. David Nielsen

 

"This is the first of three bait treatment rounds being conducted over a nine month period for the coming summer," he said.

"A further three rounds treatment will be applied during the warmer months of 2018-2019 to complete the process."

How fire ants invaded Qld

Fire ants are from South America and are native to the floodplains of the Paraguay River in Brazil, Paraguay and Northern Argentina.

2001: The first two infestations are discovered; one in the south western suburbs of Brisbane and the other at the Port of Brisbane. The ants spread from this infestation and are now across Ipswich, Logan, the Redlands, the Scenic Rim, Gold Coast and Lockyer Valley.

2006: The third infestation is found in Gladstone at Yarwun, Central Queensland, home to a major industrial and cargo port.

2013: The fourth infestation is discovered. Again, the location is Yarwun.

2017: Fire ants found for the first time on the Sunshine Coast.

Topics:  fire ant ipswich queensland



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