Fire ant invasion marches across southeast
A MULTIMILLION-dollar national pest program has failed to stem the march of fire ants across Queensland.
The number of nests in southeast Queensland nearly tripled between April and May. Biosecurity Queensland's own figures showed there were 8764 untreated fire ant nests across Brisbane, Gold Coast, Ipswich, Logan, Redlands and Scenic Rim on May 31.
That number was up from 3039 on April 18. More than 70 per cent of the untreated nests were in Logan.
The figures were revealed by a Biosecurity Queensland operations manager.
They showed that in Logan there were 6299 untreated nests by May 31.
For Brisbane the number was 1490, the Gold Coast 104, Ipswich 755, Redland 81 and the Scenic Rim 35.
Biosecurity Queensland said the program was on track to rid the country of the "super pest" despite claiming on its online portal it was being swamped by public reports and called for patience.
"Just two years into the program's 10-year plan, residents in Lockyer Valley, Scenic Rim and parts of Ipswich City local government area are telling us the strategy is working," a department spokesman said.
"The program's finite resources over 10 years are focused on eradication strategies, working from west to east - from the western boundary of the infestation, through Ipswich, Logan and ending in Redlands.
"Containment strategies are in place on the other boundaries, and suppression methods are used elsewhere within the operational boundary to minimise spread of fire ants until eradication strategies can be applied."
But the startling internal figures prompted the State Opposition to call for an audit of the 10-year $411.4 million extermination program.
LNP Shadow Minister for Agriculture Tony Perrett said there were serious concerns about how the State Government was patrolling the pest and allocating resources to stop its spread.
"Revelations Biosecurity Queensland has failed to even prosecute or fine a single individual or businesses under the regulations for spreading fire ants shows the system is broken," he said.
"Landholders have no faith in the program when they hear more than 8000 reports of fire ant nests are awaiting confirmation by Biosecurity Queensland.
"The first step to restore accountability is an independent audit into the program to find out if mistakes are being made."
Fire ant program whistleblower Pam Swepson said the internal memo figures did not include "fast track" public safety jobs.
"Logan has the largest number, either because of the explosion of obvious nests during the cooler months when the ants build mounds of dirt over their nests to drawn heat from the sun, or because of the lack of program resources to work in Logan," Ms Swepson said.
"This is the inevitable consequences of a fire ant program which has been broken since in the beginning."