Shock fire ant invasion threatens to close iconic hill

 

ICONIC Burleigh Hill is at risk of extended closure within four years unless drastic action is taken to stem the invasion of dangerous fire ants, a shock report reveals.

A leading Gold Coast City Council bureaucrat says the "super pest" is now found in 41 suburbs across the city - more than double the 17 suburbs in 2016 - and will reach as far south as Burleigh by 2024 if left unchecked.

Burleigh Hill.
Burleigh Hill.

"There is concern the level of fire ant infestation in southeast Queensland is beyond the capacity of the National Fire Ant program to prevent further spread," Lifestyle and Community director Alison Ewens wrote in a memo to Gold Coast City councillors.

Ms Ewens said the city had already been forced to close some sports fields and parks while waiting for the National Red Imported Fire Ant Program to eliminate the creatures.

"It has become apparent that the treatment undertaken by the program is not capable of preventing reinfestation from surrounding areas," she said.

Fire ants.
Fire ants.

What's worse, the State Government's eradication program will not begin on the Gold Coast until 2023. The Government has budgeted more than $400 million over 10 years across Queensland.

Fire ants, which are native to South America and first discovered in Brisbane in 2001, are considered one of the world's worst invasive species because of their rapid spread.

They are highly aggressive and will swarm anything which disturbs their nests.

Their stings can be fatal in rare circumstances.

The ants are known for damaging crops when nesting and are extremely difficult to eradicate.

In 2016 17 suburbs in the city's north were included in the state's fire ant biosecurity zone.

The state's fire ant biosecurity zone now extends to Surfers Paradise, Ashmore, Nerang, Mt Nathan and Clagiraba.

 

 

 

 

Council Lifestyle and Community committee head Cr Hermann Vorster said the spread of the insidious pests was "shocking and concerning".

"Rather than turning the tide, it appears these ants have been able to get the upper hand on the State Government and they are moving into this city and it is our suburbs which will pay the price,' he said.

"These ants are small but they present the largest threat to our local ecology and way of life.

Cr Hermann Vorster. Picture: Jerad Williams
Cr Hermann Vorster. Picture: Jerad Williams

"This is a risk to wildlife, to lifestyle and they are potential fatal. These ants do not respect borders or property and they are on track to make landfall on Burleigh Hill within four years."

Sporting fields and parks have been closed for months on end while waiting for measures to get rid of nests. The ants are extremely difficult to eradicate once they invade an area.

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Yatala councillor Mark Hammel, whose own property has been affected by fire ants, said the approach of successive State Governments had been "erratic and inconsistent".

"I have real concerns for my division and the whole city as they spread south which could affect this city's beautiful open space," he said.

Cr Mark Hammel Picture: Mike Batterham
Cr Mark Hammel Picture: Mike Batterham

"I would hate to see the day when the city of Gold Coast is forced to shut down sporting fields or sections of beach because of an infestation of ants which are a major public health issue."

A Department of Agriculture and Fisheries statement to the Bulletin said it was on track to eradicate the pests by 2027.

"The treatment season, commencing in September, will feature containment strategies to stop fire ants moving south," the statement read.

"The fight against fire ants requires a whole-of-community response. The program will also work with local Gold Coast residents to manage fire ants on their properties."

Originally published as Shock fire ant invasion threatens to close Burleigh Hill


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