Cassowary Coast Regional Council

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  • Strict biosecurity controls on banana plantations are being compromised by trespassers who are jeopardising the future of $600m banana industry
  • Industry urges a ‘whole of community’ approach be taken near high risk Panama disease tropical race 4 (Panama TR4) areas
  • Feral Pig Program reports successful mid-way results having reduced destructive population by 5,500 with several flow on benefits to industry and environment

While a Feral Pig Program has successfully removed thousands of the destructive pest from high-risk Panama TR4 zones in the Tully Valley, people illegally entering farms are a serious impediment  to containing the spread of a serious soil-borne disease and threatening  Australia’s $600 million banana industry.

Addressing a meeting of stakeholders managing the Cassowary Coast Panama TR4 Feral Pig Program in Tully this week, Queensland Police Stock Squad officers urged growers and all members of the public not to fear reporting illegal entry onto properties to local police.

Now halfway through its implementation, the feral pig eradication program has successfully removed more than 5,500 destructive feral pigs from ‘high-risk’ TR4 zones in the Tully Valley, limiting spreading of the disease.

It comes as industry awaits to hear if the disease has spread to a fourth farm in the Tully Valley, after a suspect plant was found on the property late last month and continues to undergo scientific testing.

The Queensland Government has committed $900,000 to the collaborative Cassowary Coast Panama TR4 Feral Pig Program to reduce the risk of Panama TR4 being spread by feral pigs.

The group is chaired by Cassowary Coast Regional Council Mayor John Kremastos and includes the Australian Banana Growers’ Council (ABGC), Biosecurity Queensland, Queensland Police, Canegrowers, Department of Defence and Department of Environment and Science.

In addition to the banana industry, beneficiaries of the Feral Pig Program include canegrowers whose crops are regularly impacted by the pigs, local wildlife whose young are often consumed by the pigs, and further downstream, the reef as pigs increase sediment loads entering the water system.

Panama TR4 is a soil borne disease that can be transferred by people, animals, vehicles and other machinery entering and exiting banana properties.

Cassowary Coast Regional Council Mayor John Kremastos said “Most trespassers would be unaware of the severity of their actions and as such police are reassuring the community that education is key to discouraging offenders.”

“While the community may fear retribution for reporting trespassers, Council urges that the risk of complacency is much worse, and all due diligence must be implemented in order to protect our national $600m banana industry.”

“Council is reviewing its biosecurity practices to ensure we’re doing all we can to minimise disease spread, including temporarily ceasing public works in the Tully Valley following last week’s suspected detection.”

“I applaud the growers and their efforts so far for their work to minimize Panama TR4, and encourage those who are going on farm to make sure they mitigate all the risk by following on-farm biosecurity precautions to ensure we are doing what we can to minimise the spread.”

Australian Banana Growers’ Council deputy chair, Leon Collins said “Industry has gone to great lengths to fend off Panama TR4 since the first Queensland detection in 2015, but just one inadvertent act of trespass could put the entire industry at risk.”

“This disease is not going away and it’s up to the entire community including growers, regulators, residents and visitors, to band together and ensure we do everything in our power to continue to protect ourselves from Panama TR4.”

“To date, we’ve had unprecedented success in slowing the spread of this disease, but all it takes is one person, a dog or a vehicle, entering a banana farm illegally - and without adhering to strict biosecurity protocols - and it puts all of this work in jeopardy.”

“We are grateful for the continued support we have received from the local Stock Squad and we would encourage all growers and greater community to come forward whenever they detect illegal entry onto properties in order to protect industry and educate offenders.”

Biosecurity Queensland’s Panama TR4 Program Leader, Rhiannon Evans said “The industry has come a long way since the first detection of Panama TR4 in 2015, with growers having made strong biosecurity measures part of their day-to-day operations, and the ‘come clean, and leave clean’ message well and truly embedded in the community.”

“‘Biosecurity measures can buy the industry time while it adjusts to farming with Panama TR4; and vigilance and commitment by the whole community to adhere to biosecurity measures are key to containing the disease.”