$1m fines for failing to comply with fire ant risk plans
FINES for failing to comply with risk management plans to stop the spread of killer fire ants could range as high as $1 million.
More than 40 representatives from businesses in the restricted area attended a meeting held at CQUniversity last Thursday to discuss the legal requirements and how to mitigate further infestation.
Five properties originally had infestation controls and they are all moving over to developing a risk management plan, along with the other businesses in the restricted area.
The restricted area came into effect on Wednesday, requiring all businesses throughout the area to have an established plan in place by Friday, April 4.
It also calls for anyone in the area to be aware of the soil movement restrictions.
They can even hitch a ride on earth moving equipment or a truck carrying aggregate.
Biosecurity Queensland fire ant community engagement manager Anthony Wright said the businesses had been exemplary in taking immediate action to assist the program in implementing strategies to help prevent the spread of fire ants.
"We've been engaging people to the point they care because none of us want fire ants to establish," he said.
"Fire ants can be moved across the state by products of soil and mining and you've got plenty of it here in Gladstone."
Mr Wright said Australia was the only country that had been able to contain and control the ants to the degree there was no major impacts on human lifestyle.
"There are 150 million hectares of heavily infected land in the United States," he said.
"They got there through human-assisted movement.
"They can even hitch a ride on earth moving equipment or a truck carrying aggregate."
BOUNDARIES restricting the movement of soil materials and industry by-products have been scaled back from the secondary baiting zone.
It's part of Biosecurity Queensland's three-stage plan for fire-ant eradication to suppress, eradicate and then contain the area.
The aim is to stop any spread of fire ants through the movement of materials that could lead to fire ants starting a colony in a new area.
Although the surveillance zone was pushed out to six kilometres from the nests, there have been no further sightings, bringing the official Gladstone Fire Ant Restricted Area back to the original zone.
It will affect businesses in the areas of Targinnie, Yarwun and Curtis Island but there are no residential properties located in the restricted area.
The boundaries of the 3500-hectare area are essentially suburb lines, including the main roads in the area, and are highlighted by two electronic roadside signs.
The last fire ant nest was found within the initial two-kilometre surveillance zone.
The boundaries have strict controls on the movement of materials such as:
- quarrying by-products;
- waste; and
- mining by-products.
Yarwun's fire ant infestation was discovered at Fisherman's Landing, an industrial site used by some of the region's biggest industries.
Businesses including Bechtel, Rio Tinto, Orica, Cement Australia and the owners of the industrial site, the Gladstone Ports Corporation, have not been ruled out as the source of the foreign menace.
MORE than 500 people across Gladstone, mostly in industrial roles, have educated themselves about the risk of fire ants since the discovery of nests in December.
Biosecurity Queensland has held numerous community events and on-site training for businesses that could have been affected by the aggressive, destructive ants.
The department will have a constant presence in Gladstone for at least the next five years, as the incredibly resilient insects are intelligent enough to play hide and seek.
"From a pest eradication point of view, there's a period to determine the absence of fire ants," said fire ant community engagement manager Anthony Wright.
"The ongoing treatment and surveillance is risk mitigation... we'll be here until 2017."
He said if there were no further fire ants found at the end of that period they would be able to declare the area fire ant free.
The ants are genetically different from the nests found back in 2006.
EYE SPY: How to spot a fire ant
Fire ants are:
- 2-6mm in size
- coppery-brown with a dark abdomen
- inflict a painful sting
They can be found in or on high-risk materials, which include:
- construction and landscaping materials
- soil, sand and pot plants
- mulch and green waste
- baled hay and stray
- machinery and earthmoving equipment.
For more information on fire ants visit http://www.daff.qld.gov.au/fireants or call 13 25 23.