3 July 2023

Hon Mark Furner MP
Minister for Agricultural Industry Development & Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities GPO Box 46
Brisbane QLD 4001
Dear Minister
Re: Fire Ant Eradication Program in Queensland
We understand that a decision on the next steps for the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program (the Eradication Program) will be discussed at the upcoming Agricultural Ministers meeting on 13 July 2023.
The Department of Agriculture & Fisheries Queensland oversees the National Fire Ant Eradication Program. Recently, the independent review report released by the Australian Government1 indicated eradication is not possible within the current 10-Year Plan.
AgForce, along with an alliance of affected industries and organisations request, post this meeting, a reply to the 2021 review report and what measures will be taken to improve the eradication program and ensure improved integration across landscapes?
Eradication is the only option from an AgForce perspective. The cost of anything short of eradication will be felt by generations to come.
In the view of industry, unless there is a rapid overhaul of governance, communication gaps and compliance in the fire ant eradication program, the chance of successful eradication from southeast Queensland is diminishing. Lifestyles, native wildlife, and agriculture are at risk.
Over the last two years, since the review and its 27 recommendation, fire ants have continued to spread. Delimitation of this major pest has failed, with new outbreaks occurring outside the biosecurity zone.
Many community members in urban and peri-urban landscapes are not aware everyone has a general biosecurity obligation – GBO. Many do not know about movement restrictions on potential fire ant carriers such as soil, pot plants, turf and uncovered mulch. AgForce previously highlighted gaps to program staff. Gaps remain, such as hay movement amongst equestrian events and fire ants not included on real estate pest inspection reports for property sales.
In addition to remote sensing surveillance across open ground, new technology such as e-DNA detection may be useful to detect absence or presence of fire ants in rural, riparian and woodland areas. A previous proposal through AgForce to involve the commercial agricultural laboratory AgEtal in e-DNA monitoring was squashed, while the program still awaits slow research progress from a Sydney University using a different methodology.
AgForce and industry would welcome a chance to work in partnership on how the current fire ant eradication program can be overhauled to achieve eradication milestones across all of Queensland and beyond.
Approved By
Michael Guerin
Chief Executive Officer
1 National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program Strategic Review August 2021: review 96pp. Released publicly on 8 June 2023.