Nest found in Northern Rivers

The discovery comes two months after fire ant nests were detected for the first time in the state, at South Murwillumbah, 13 kilometres south of the Queensland border.

NSW Farmers President Xavier Martin called on the government to immediately ramp up control and eradication efforts.

“Red imported fire ants are a threat to agricultural production and to the landscape of NSW – they can damage agricultural equipment, sting livestock, ruin the natural environment, and pose a serious risk to the health and wellbeing of all people in NSW,” he said.

“This latest outbreak is a stark reminder of the failure to control and eradicate these insidious pests.”

Invasive Species Council advocacy manager Reece Pianta said she had long feared the earlier outbreak would spread.

“This is a very alarming development. The government must spare no expense in responding to this outbreak and the whole community should treat this very, very seriously,” she said.

“Fire ants are one of the world’s worst super pests and, if they are allowed to spread across the continent, their economic impact will be greater than cane toads, rabbits, feral cats and foxes combined.

“They will devastate Australia’s environment and agriculture, cost our economy billions annually, and we could see over 140,000 extra medical visits every year as they sting Australians at the park or in the backyard.”

Ballina Greens MP Tamara Smith said she was concerned the ants were linked to construction materials and workers who had travelled from Queensland as part of the flood rebuild efforts, and called for all construction sites established since then to be inspected.

“It’s going to keep heading south and what it means for our farmers, for our community and our safety is horrendous,” she said.


Jali Local Aboriginal Land Council representative Kylie Jacky said the Cabbage Tree Indigenous community, who were relocated to Wardell following the floods, were likely to be affected. The community has been living in temporary demountable pods since the disaster.

“The compounding trauma of these events means we need to expedite as a matter of urgency getting our community members who were impacted by the floods back into permanent homes,” she said.

Fire ants are an invasive species, known to become aggressive when disturbed and sting repeatedly. Their sting can kill people, pets and livestock and destroy native ecosystems.

They are dark reddish-brown and range in size from two to six millimetres long. Their nests are described as mounds or flattish patches of soil with no obvious entrance holes, standing up to 40 centimetres high.

Shadow Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud warned current federal funding levels of $268 million over four years was not enough.

“The whole country has been put at risk of fire ants because Labor was too slow to act,” he said.

There are strict rules around the movement of goods such as soil, organic mulch, hay, turf and compost over the border and in controlled areas, as they are considered fire ant carriers.

The Northern Rivers community has been encouraged to report potential fire ant sites via the NSW Biosecurity Hotline at 1800 680 244 or online at dpi.nsw.gov.au/fire-ants.

Further information about the Wardell incident is expected after a detailed examination of the site.

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