Days after Katter’s Australian Party candidate for Hill, Shane Knuth, announced that his party would used expected balance of power muscle in the new Queensland Parliament to leverage more money for feral pig control in the state’s far north, the LNP has committed $3 million over four years, should it be elected on November 25.
The money would be used to step up feral pig control measures to help the north Queensland banana industry fight the spread of Panama disease.
LNP Member for Hinchinbrook, Andrew Cripps, said Wednesday’s announcement demonstrated the LNP had listened to local banana growers about the biosecurity risks faced by the industry, which included opposition agricultural spokesman and LNP Member for Burdekin, Dale Last, and the LNP’s candidate for Hill, Mario Quagliata.
“Since TR4 was identified in March 2015 on a property west of Tully, there has been a significant investment in biosecurity infrastructure and surveillance across the region” said Mr Cripps.
“However, what has become clear is that controlling the movement of feral pigs between farms and between private and state land is problematic.
“This is now much more than just economic losses from damage to crops by feral pigs, this is about potentially huge economic losses across the industry from the spread of Panama disease.”
The funding commitment would engage an experienced contractor to coordinate feral pig control efforts in the Tully-Murray and Johnstone River catchments.
Mr Cripps said he hoped the current resources provided by state government agencies, local government and private landholders could be integrated into a coordinated program.
“Various methods of control, including shooting, trapping and baiting need to be used in different areas of these two catchments to be effective and to cut down the feral pig population.
“The Australian banana industry has a $600 million annual farm gate value and a total annual industry value of over $1 billion – bananas are Australia’s most popular fresh fruit.
“The Cassowary Coast Region is the heart of the Australian banana industry and the TR4 biosecurity issue is a serious challenge that we must all pull together to respond to effectively.”
Mr Cripps said the Palaszczuk government had not responded to requests by the banana industry to consider additional funding for the control of feral pigs in response to the TR4 issue.
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, adding that the state government had committed some $24m to protecting the banana industry since the initial TR4 detection.
He also called on the federal government to do more in its army training area, but a Defence Department spokesman said they had spent over $250,000 in 2016 on pig trapping and euthanising measures in the Tully area.
KAP’s candidate for Hill, Shane Knuth, said the feral pig problem on the Cassowary Coast was out of control.
“The previous program was successful in controlling numbers, however since the program was scaled back in 2015, numbers have exploded,” he said.
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.
“KAP will commit to ensuring adequate funding is returned to the Cassowary Coast to control feral pigs.”