Tasmania’s fight against fruit fly had a boost on Saturday with the federal government announcing a $20 million boost to the state’s biosecurity.
Tasmanian Liberal senator Richard Colbeck announced the funding at Agfest and explained it would be used predominantly to help the state regain its fruit fly free status.
“The funding will assist with some of the [biosecurity] inspections, particularly of people coming in, and increasing our inspection capacity, and also with community engagement and managing inspections out in the broader environment to try and put this particular issue to bed,” Mr Colbeck said.
Funding is also available to access the sterile fruit fly technology that has already been used in South Australia if needed in spring.
It could also increase the Grower Assistance Package beyond the $2 million committed, with up to 30 growers already receiving support.
“It’s a real delight to be able to assist the Tasmanian government with Tasmania’s reputation in the global market as a fruit fly free state and I hope that we can achieve that goal very soon,” Mr Colbeck said.
“We all understand how important Tasmania’s fruit fly free status is because it gives us access to so many of those important markets that even parts of the mainland don’t have available. We’re very keen to maintain that because of Australia’s reputation as a provider of high quality and safe foods into those key Asian markets in particular,” he said.
Primary Industries Minister Sarah Courtney said this fruit fly incursion was an example of the increased pressure Tasmania experienced as a growing economy.
The $20 million funding will address fruit fly eradication efforts and increase Biosecurity Tasmania’s capacity “to deal with further threats and meet biosecurity needs going forward”.
“It recognises the important work we are already doing and the fact that we are already committing $3 million to biosecurity initiatives, as well as the money that we have invested over the past four years to strengthen biosecurity,” Ms Courtney said.
“It’s very pleasing that we haven’t had any more detections over the past month or so, but we’re going to remain vigilant. We know how important out fruit fly free status is and we’re going to make sure that we regain it.”
Fruit Growers Tasmania president Nic Hansen welcomed the federal funding announcement on behalf of state’s more than 80 fruit growers.
“It is needed to increase our biosecurity capability to deal with what we’ve seen lately with our fruit fly issue. Until we get out pest-free status back growers will be stressed.”
“The fruit growing industry in Tasmania is a large employer within the state. We contribute many millions of dollars to the export industry, bringing dollars into Tasmania,” he said.
Mr Hansen said he hoped some of the money would be used to fund additional biosecurity staff to carry out inspections of fruit coming to the state from mainland Australia.
“We’ve been calling for a fruit fly expert to be put into the Department of Primary Industries, and I understand that to be the case as well,” he said.
Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association president Wayne Johnstone said the funding announcement showed “we have good governance in Tasmania in looking after the agricultural sector”.
“We’re dealing with something that we haven’t dealt with before in this state. We know we’ve got to eradicate this problem and the money that’s been put in is a significant amount.”
“Any dollars that can be put into agriculture is certainly welcome. We’ve got to get on top of this problem,” Mr Johnstone said.
Tasmania’s long winter would help in eradication, with temperatures below 16 degrees meaning “the fly can’t move”, Mr Hansen said.