With threats such as African Swine Fever and prickly acacia making biosecurity more important to Queensland agriculture than ever, AgForce has questioned the State Government’s commitment to managing invasive species.
The Government released its long-awaited Invasive Pest Plants and Animals Strategy 2019 – 2024 last week after sitting on it for more than six months, leading to concerns being expressed by biosecurity experts that we are starting on the back foot.
This is the latest in a litany of delays, smokescreens and broken promises by the State Government in relation to managing invasive species.
The $5 million announced by Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner in March to be dedicated to prickly acacia management has not been fully delivered amid denials it was ever promised (although the State did fund the Southern Gulf NRM (Natural Resources Management group) to manage prickly acacia outbreaks in the lower Flinders River and contributed to the ongoing search for biocontrol.
The forward-looking and very effective Strategy was developed by the Queensland Invasive Plant and Animals Committee (QIPAC), a dedicated group of representatives from industry, State and local government, regional NRMs, and conservation groups and presented to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in March – where it sat gathering dust for more than six months.
AgForce’s representative on QIPAC, Ivan Naggs, said that while he was pleased the Strategy had finally been released, it was disappointing that the “cogs had turned so slowly” on such a critical issue.
“We are already at the end of the first year of the strategy and it has only just been released – and only after six months of badgering by industry – putting pressure on QIPAC to implement and assess the plan,” Mr Naggs said.
“I just don’t think the Government has an appreciation of how critical biosecurity is to our industry or how quickly these issues move.
“Another issue which needs urgent resolution is naming the industry and community representatives on the Biosecurity Queensland Ministerial Advisory Committee (BQMAC) even though nominations closed way back in May
“BQMAC will oversee QIPAC – as well as the Biosecurity Strategy 2019 -2024, Queensland Dog Offensive Group and State Land Pest Management Committee, so they are a crucial part of the Strategy.
“We need the cogs to turn quicker if we are to retain biosecurity preparedness across Queensland.
“The slogan AgForce applies to biosecurity issues– Be Aware. Be Alert. Be prepared – must be incorporated into the State Government’s thinking and planning.”
Mr Naggs said the first task for QIPAC could be to encourage a nil-tenure approach to managing strategic zones of feral pigs, if considered a required step to prevent an African swine fever outbreak across Queensland.
“Feral pigs are potential vectors of this virus which could destroy our domestic pig industry,” he said.
“We need to encourage all land managers to work together, especially on priority and highly mobile pest animals and weeds. We all have a role in preventing new pests and weeds and managing existing ones. “