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NZ joins fight against dangerous red fire ant

The sting of the
red fire ant can be very painful.
The sting of the red fire ant can be very painful.

Hon Jim Anderton

Minister of Agriculture, Minister for Biosecurity, Minister of Fisheries, Minister of Forestry
Associate Minister of Health,
Associate Minister for Tertiary Education,
Minister Responsible for Public Trust

Progressive Leader

15th November 2006 Press release

New Zealand joins fight against dangerous red fire ant

Minister for Biosecurity, Jim Anderton today announced Cabinet’s approval for up to $10.96 million to be used in the fight against the imported red fire ants following their discovery at Whirinaki, in Hawkes Bay earlier this year.

“This Labour-Progressive government takes biosecurity incursions very seriously. We have increased the biosecurity baseline budget to $138 million a year, up sixty per cent from 1999 when the new government took office.

Following the discovery and destruction of the original fire ant nest in June, Biosecurity New Zealand has been working closely with the local Whirinaki community on managing the pest,” Jim Anderton said.

"It's incumbent on all of us to share the responsibility and to promote an attitude of joint care for our environment. We are custodians of our natural heritage. We need a culture among New Zealanders that supports biosecurity.

Red imported fire ants are a significant pest because they are capable of spreading across wide areas, posing a direct threat to human health, lifestyles, and our native flora and fauna. The ants are tiny (2-6mm), reddish-brown in colour and will sting to defend their nest and surrounding area if disturbed. The stings can be painful and, in rare cases, a strong allergic reaction can occur which could prove fatal.

“This pest likes to live where we live. They invade backyards, school grounds and recreation areas. If serious infestation occurs, these areas become unusable – directly affecting the much-loved lifestyle of New Zealanders,” Jim Anderton said.

“Australia has been battling red imported fire ants since 2001 and has spent in excess of AUD$175 million trying unsuccessfully to eradicate them. This illustrates the significance of this pest and why we need to act quickly.

The new funding, spread across three years, will allow for increased surveillance and eradication activities as well as improved public information.

“Areas where there is a higher chance of new nests having established have been identified and ground teams are being used to survey and lay attractant baits. Those areas that can’t be covered effectively and safely on foot, such as nearby forests, will be treated with insecticidal ant baits as a further precaution,” Jim Anderton said.

“Whilst this direct surveillance and eradication activity is important, we need all residents in the Hawke’s Bay, particularly those closest to Whirinaki, to play their part in the programme. This involves reporting any unusual insect bites and ant sightings (refer attached picture) directly to 0800 80 99 66.”

“All New Zealanders have a role to play to help protect this country from unwanted pests. We have received great support and co-operation from the Whirinaki community and their vigilance and actions have made the chances of eradicating red imported fire ants that much more achievable,” Jim Anderton said.

ENDS

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