New big fines for people found transporting fire ants
DODGING biosecurity protocols could result in a fine of up to $5000.
Amendments to the biosecurity act will give fire ant staff the ability to issue fines if truckies, farmers, and agricultural business don't stick to safety procedures.
The change has been taken to ensure victory in the ongoing war against fire ants in southeast Queensland, with serious penalties on the table for those who carry the ants across biosecurity zones.
New regulations have given the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program the ability to issue penalty infringement notices (PIN) to companies and individuals who move soil, turf, pot plants, hay, mulch or other materials that may carry fire ants.
Program general manager Graeme Dudgeon said biosecurity threats were an issue for the whole community, from individual property owners and businesses, to public landowners such as councils.
"The PINs can be issued for a range of offences, including moving soil from one biosecurity zone to another, and carry penalties of up to $5000," he said.
The warning comes after the first PINs were issued to a haulage company, which has been fined over $14,000 for a number of breaches of the Biosecurity Regulation 2016.
"While most industry operators take their legislative requirements seriously, penalty infringement notices are a new tool to target those who don't," Mr Dudgeon said.
"It is important that individuals and companies understand that we are serious about stopping the spread of fire ants."
Biosecurity zones exist to prevent pests such as fire ants from spreading into new areas.
"Our compliance officers are actively monitoring movements in southeast Queensland to identify any noncompliance," Mr Dudgeon said.
"People need to be aware of the rules before moving soil or other fire ant carriers and if necessary apply for a biosecurity instrument permit."
The eradication program has been accelerating its efforts in recent months, aiming to completely eliminate fire ants from the western treatment area - which includes the Lockyer Valley, Darling Downs, and parts of Ipswich - before the end of this year's treatment season.
Though efforts to drive out the ants have been meeting with strong success in targeted areas, the ants are still putting up a fight.
"They are aggressive, highly-adaptive and well-equipped for survival," Mr Dudgeon said.
"They are Category 1 restricted matter under the Biosecurity Act 2014 and everyone, including industry, is legally required to report any infestations."
For more information, visit daf.qld.gov.au/fireants.