PROBLEMS: Summerholm organic farmer John Battersby is worried about the effects eradication programs might have on his land.
PROBLEMS: Summerholm organic farmer John Battersby is worried about the effects eradication programs might have on his land. Dominic Elsome

Fire ant program complaints rise

ORGANIC farmer John Battersby and his wife bought their Summerholm property with the dream of going off-grid and living an organic and chemical-free lifestyle.

But Mr Battersby is worried their dream is at risk from Biosecurity Queensland's fire ant control program.

"I'm trying to create a lifestyle and they're not paying any heed to it," MrBattersby said.

His concerns relate to chemical baits used in the program to eradicate fire ant infestations, and the effect it might have on his land and his organic farming business.

"If I lose my opportunity to get organic certification, they're not going to be responsible," he said.

A spokesperson for Biosecurity Queensland said the Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources had released an Organic Notice recommending organic certification organisations were not expected to decertify properties that had been treated.

"Extensive studies into the use and impact of fire ant bait treatments undertaken in the United States have found that there are no reported adverse effects on animals, including horses or other livestock in grazing pastures," the spokesperson said.

Producers needed to contact the program prior to scheduled treatment and demonstrate current certification, or pending certification of the property, the spokesperson added.

Mr Battersby said he had previously had a good relationship with local fire ant program teams, who would contact him prior to attending his property.

However this good relationship ended just before Christmas, Mr Battersby said, when a Biosecurity Queensland representative attended.

Mr Battersby said the man didn't provide any identification, describing the entire encounter as "rude" and "aggressive".

Complaints in relation to the program have increased since Biosecurity Queensland began its most recent round of treatment in the Lockyer Valley.

Issues range from the accuracy of aerial treatments and the contents of the baits used, to questions surrounding agents accessing properties without permission.

Mr Battersby understood the need to control the highly invasive species but said he had issues with the "sledgehammer" approach being implemented.

"I'm happy for them to come and burn out a nest," he said.

"But I don't want that 34 acres carpet bombed by something I don't know what the long-term consequences are going to be.

"We've got the salad bowl of Australia here and they're just willy-nilly flying over helicopters."

John Battersby worries what effect the bait used by the program could have on his organic certification.
John Battersby worries what effect the bait used by the program could have on his organic certification. Dominic Elsome

Forum to address resident's concerns

LANDOWNERS and residents will have the opportunity to have their questions answered at a forum in Gatton early next month.

Member for Lockyer Jim McDonald arranged the forum after noticing an increase in the number of complaints to his office in relation to the fire ant program.

"It was clear from these complaints that there's a definite need for a forum where the community can discuss the program with staff from Biosecurity Queensland, have their questions answered and hear what Biosecurity Queensland are doing to ensure our safety," Mr McDonald said.

"It's clear there's a serious issue with how much information residents are receiving about the treatment program."

In order to provide residents with the possibility to have as many questions answered as possible, staff from across all facets of Biosecurity Queensland's treatment program will attend.

"This is your chance to have questions you might have about fire ants answered." he said.

"With your input the program can be adapted to best suit our region and cause as little disruption as possible."

The forum will be held on Tuesday, February 5 from 6pm at the Gatton Shire Hall, North Street Gatton.


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