Damning review finds fire ant program going backwards

Thursday, 4th June 2020

A review into the efficiency and effectiveness of the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program managed by Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) has painted a dire picture of waste and mismanagement*.

LNP Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries Tony Perrett said it’s cause for alarm that the fire ant footprint had expanded and density of larger mounds had increased since the commencement of the programs.

“The LNP received complaints about Labor’s bungling of the fire ant program right from the start,” Mr Perrett said.

“Queenslanders told us they thought it was going backwards, and following the release of the findings, it turned out they were right.

“By the end of 2019-20 the Palaszczuk Labor Government would have spent more than $134 million of the $411 million allocated to the program, just three years into the 10-year eradication program.

“Instead of making progress in killing and eradicating fire ants, the program was mismanaged by Labor.

“Labor has failed to meet any of its yearly eradication targets and only one of the five key performance indicators.

“I have written to the Queensland Auditor General requesting the Audit Office conduct and independent review and report back to Parliament.”

LNP Member for Coomera said fire ant eradication is a big deal for his local community and the program had become a joke under Labor.

“There have been serious concerns about the productivity levels of local fire ant crews with concerns around the progress they have been making in eradicating the ants from the Northern Gold Coast, with these pests now found as far south as Southport,” said Mr Crandon.

“The report confirms these concerns and pointed out the productivity issues in meeting targets.

“That has resulted in an additional $150,000 per month of taxpayers money during the treatment season.”

LNP Member for Scenic Rim Jon Krause, said the problem was becoming so bad that fire ants were now south of Beaudesert, near the NSW border.

“Landholders in the Scenic Rim are sick of their concerns being ignored due to the Labor’s mismanagement of the eradication,” said Mr Krause. 

“There was a situation in Bromelton were it took DAF more than five months to remove ants from the property, which is completely unacceptable.”

Tony Perrett said that if this mess wasn’t urgently turned around, fire ants will be in NSW and beyond before we know it.

“Taxpayers deserve better than this. The rest of the country deserves better than this,” said Mr Perrett.

“Only a Deb Frecklington LNP Government we will get the fire ant program back on track, meet targets and hold those people administering the program to account.”

Report highlights

  • By the end of 2019-20 DAF will have spent more than $134 million of the $411 million allocation, three years into the 10-year eradication program.
  • Since the program commenced the fire ant footprint has expanded rather than decreased, and the density of larger fire ant mounds have increased
  • Only one of the five key performance indicators providing evidence of progress in eradication was being met
  • Only four of six treatment plans were completed in the first two years.
  • The 2017-18 Round Two completed only 68% and 2018-19 Round Four only completed 64% of planned treatments despite spending most of the funding allocated for a full complement of treatments.
  • Eradication Areas 2 (Ipswich), 3 (Logan & Brisbane), and 4 (Brisbane bayside, Redland City, Northern Gold Coast) have received less than planned surveillance and treatment.
  • There have been serious issues labour productivity rates of field teams. Instead of addressing productivity issues DAF reduced the target rates of hectares covered per day – this is costing taxpayers an additional $150,000 per month during the treatment season.
  • There is little urgency to treat new infestations outside existing operating areas. The review cited an example in Bromelton of DAF taking more than five months to satisfactorily remove the advancing ants.
  • Almost one in 10 of the 912 compliance checks conducted in 2018-2019 were non-compliant – 30% of these non-compliant cases were not resolved within a month.
  • DAF allowed non-compliant businesses and individuals to continue operation without restriction or action for longer than a month.

*  https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/business-priorities/biosecurity/invasive-plants-animals/ants/fire-ants/eradication/10-year-plan/efficiency-and-effectiveness-review