Feral pigs and their ability to spread the disease that’s threatening the north’s banana industry saw the two major parties trade insults earlier this year, and now Katter’s Australian Party is having its say.
In August, the LNP’s shadow Agriculture Minister, Dale Last, called on the state government to “urgently assist with existing eradication measures and take a lead role in coordination”, saying he was acting at the urging of banana growers themselves.
Then-Agriculture Minister, Bill Byrne, responded by telling growers to arm themselves with category D firearms to deal with the problem of escalating pig numbers, and called on the federal government to do more in its army training area.
While the federal government said the Defence Department had spent over $250,000 in 2016 on pig trapping and euthanising measures in the Tully area, and Mr Byrne said the state government had committed some $24m to protecting the banana industry since the initial TR4 detection, KAP’s candidate for Hill, Shane Knuth, said the feral pig problem on the Cassowary Coast was out of control and was something his party would address.
“The previous program was successful in controlling numbers, however since the program was scaled back in 2015, numbers have exploded,” Mr Knuth said. “KAP will commit to ensuring adequate funding is returned to the Cassowary Coast to control feral pigs.”
Saying it was evident neither party would hold power in its own right after the election, Mr Knuth said KAP would ensure adequate funding was urgently made available.
“About 85 per cent of Australia's bananas are produced within a 100 kilometre radius of the Tully Valley, between Cairns and Townsville.
“If Panama TR4 and carriers of the disease are not controlled, it could wipe out the entire banana crop in the region, which would be devastating to the community.”
He was backed up by Mission Beach resident, Paul Roxby, who said southern decision makers didn’t understand how big a problem feral pigs were in regional Queensland.
“They are constantly in and around the neighbourhood, digging up yards and creating a mess in the community,” he said.
“They destroy crops and wildlife and carry all sorts of serious diseases such as Panama and Leptospirosis.
“It’s a real worry to the people living here. We are desperate and when Shane says he will take action I know he will.”