$268 million federal fire ant funding announcement welcomed

Invasive Species 2

The Invasive Species Council have welcomed the announcement today of $268 million in funding for fire ant eradication by federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers and Agriculture Minister Murray Watt.

Reece Pianta, Conservation Officer at the Invasive Species Council, said:

“This $268 million funding announcement by the Albanese Government today is a really significant moment in the battle to stop one of the worst super pests invading the whole of Australia.

“This is important leadership from Treasurer Chalmers and Minister Watt that will mean that work can now ramp up on the ground to stop fire ants spreading.

“Australia is world leader when it comes to tackling ant invasions and the experts are telling us that fire ants can still be eradicated with a significantly ramped-up program of baiting, surveillance and community engagement.

“This is only step one in achieving eradication and saving Australia’s wildlife, agriculture and outdoor lifestyle from the devastating impacts of fire ants.

“The pressure must now shift to the Victorian, Western Australian and South Australian Governments who have yet to commit to their share of funding for eradication.

“We understand these states will be considering their level of funding and urge them to step and unite with Queensland, NSW and the federal government to stop fire ants in their tracks.

“Eradication will take at least a decade and so while this four year funding announcement is very welcome, work should start immediately on developing the next funding package so that we do not have any more delays.

“We also know that the government’s own recent review recommended a higher level of funding than what has been committed to achieve eradication.

“If, as we suspect, the funds are not sufficient then there needs to be a clear pathway to quickly get new funds into the program.

“Fire ants are one of the world’s worst super pests and, if they are allowed to spread across the continent, their impact will be greater than cane toads, rabbits, feral cats and foxes combined.

“It’s in the interests of every state in Australia to urgently fund the eradication efforts in Queensland. NSW is at extreme risk of being invaded, with the latest outbreak close enough for a single queen ant’s flight to spark a fire ant infestation across the border.

“Earlier this year, Victoria had a fire ant incursion with a Queen ant found on a freight pallet from Queensland. Victoria is lucky the system caught it this time, but every year we fail to eradicate these super pests increases the odds they will sneak into other parts of Australia.” Mr Pianta said.

Background information on fire ants:

  • Fire ants can be lethal to humans, are expected to have a $2 billion per year impact on Australia’s economy if they get out of control, will devastate wildlife, cut agricultural output by up to 40% and may cause over one hundred thousand extra medical appointments each year.
  • Fire ants can form rafts during flood events, stowaway in freight or soil or spread by Queen ant flights of around 5 km per year (and up to 30 km in favourable conditions).
  • The National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program strategic review estimated that at least $200 to $300 million per year will be required for ongoing eradication efforts to achieve eradication by 2032 – this compares to $94 million spent in 2022/23 and only $60 million committed for this financial year.
  • Recently Australia’s governments committed to ongoing fire ant eradication but have not yet committed any new funding to fight fire ants in Australia. Fire ant eradication is being led by the Queensland government but is funded by all Australian governments because fire ants are a threat to the whole country.
  • Fire ants came into Australia in the late 90s in freight from the United States, they were found in 2001. Fire ants are originally from South America.
  • Fire ants have spread across most of the southern United States, and are spreading in China at a rate of about 80 km per year.
  • Almost all of Australia is climatically suitable for fire ants.

About the Invasive Species Council

The Invasive Species Council campaigns for stronger laws, policies and programs to protect Australia’s native plants and animals from environmental weeds, feral animals and other invaders.

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