20 November 2020 / Legislation Alert

Updated Biosecurity Requirements for Fire Ants

Changes to Queensland’s Biosecurity Regulation 2016 for fire ants came into effect on Wednesday, 27 May 2020.

These changes provide extra protection to areas that have undergone the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program's eradication activities, and reduce the chance of the pest spreading by the movement of infested material such as soil, gravel, mulch and hay.

The key changes are:

1.   2 fire ant biosecurity zones instead of 3 (zones include new suburb areas where fire ants have been found previously)

2.   new soil movement guideline clarifies how you can meet your general biosecurity obligation (GBO) when working with soil updated risk mitigation strategies to guide you when working with material that may carry fire ants (may reduce the need to apply for a biosecurity instrument permit).

Soil & Transport in Biosecurity Zones

Soil from fire ant biosecurity zones is considered high risk for the spread of fire ants.

Under the Biosecurity Act 2014 everyone has a general biosecurity obligation (GBO) to take all reasonable steps to ensure they do not spread fire ants.

The Biosecurity Regulation 2016 prescribes procedures that you must follow when moving soil from a fire ant biosecurity zone. There are 2 fire ant biosecurity zones in Queensland. Refer to the fire ant biosecurity zone maps to see the boundaries of these zones or the Queensland Government’s interactive map to check if you're in a fire ant biosecurity zone.

Moving soil

To move soil from either of the fire ant biosecurity zones to a place outside the zones, you must request a biosecurity instrument permit (BIP) online or phone 13 25 23.

Refer to the table below for restrictions on the movement of soil between and outside of the fire ant biosecurity zones.

Biosecurity zone 1

Biosecurity zone 2

Soil originating from a place in zone 1 can be moved to a place in zone 1 or zone 2 without a biosecurity instrument permit (BIP).

Soil can be moved from its original place in zone 1 directly to a waste facility within either zone 1 or zone 2 without a BIP.

Soil originating from a place in zone 2 can be moved within zone 2 without a biosecurity instrument permit (BIP).

You need to obtain a BIP before moving the soil to a place within zone 1.

Soil can be moved from its original place in zone 2 directly to a waste facility in zone 2. You'll need a BIP to move the soil to a waste facility within zone 1.

Download Permit

Managing soil

The Biosecurity Regulation 2016 and the Soil movement guideline outlines how soil should be managed in fire ant biosecurity zones.

If you are moving soil within the fire ant biosecurity zones, you should do 1 or more of the following:

  1. treat soil before excavation
  2. take soil from depth
  3. disturb soil during or after excavation
  4. store soil appropriately.

Treating soil before excavation

Business operators should engage a licensed pest manager 2 weeks before the anticipated excavation date to:

  1. inspect the area to be excavated. If fire ants are found, report them
  2. undertake direct nest injection (DNI) of any fire ant nests
  3. treat the site with an appropriate bait in order to prevent fire ants becoming established in the area to be excavated.

At a residential property, you can pre-treat an area that is to be excavated using a household pesticide that is available in a retail store. The products used should be recognised by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) as an appropriate product for treating fire ants.

Use insecticides in accordance with the conditions of the APVMA permit, the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) and in conjunction with the product's label. You can search for permits on the APVMA website.

Taking soil from depth

A newly established, or young, fire ant colony is often located in the first metre of soil. You could reduce ant activity and the risk of ant movement to another location by taking the following steps.

  1. Remove the top metre of soil.
  2. Do the necessary excavation.
  3. Replace the original top metre of soil.

Do not mix the top metre of soil with the soil being moved from the site. Keep the top metre on site, or take it to a waste facility within the fire ant biosecurity zones (restrictions apply, see table above).

This method is not recommended for areas where the soil type is soft, loamy or sandy, as fire ant nests can extend further than 1 metre below the surface in areas in these soil types.

Disturbing the soil during or after excavation

Soil that is to be taken off-site should be disturbed before it is moved to another location. Disturbing soil means undertaking 1 or a combination of the following activities:

  1. vigorously turning
  2. crushing
  3. washing
  4. screening a soil stockpile.

Storage of soil

If the soil will be stored on the property for more than 24 hours, you should use 1 of the following storage options:

  1. off-ground and covered (e.g. in a shed, under a shade cloth or tarpaulin); or
  2. on-ground, and covered, on 1 of the following surfaces:
    1. concrete or bitumen (no cracks)
    2. a barrier that cannot be penetrated by fire ants (e.g. 200 micron unperforated plastic sheeting)
    3. compacted ground (other than sand) that has been treated with an appropriate chemical product before storage.

Apply a 30cm-wide strip of insecticide containing 80g/L bifenthrin, around the perimeter of the on-ground storage area. If soil is stored on compacted ground, you should also treat the whole surface area.

Keep the treated area free of material that could form an untreated bridge to the soil.

For an insecticide registered as a horizontal or perimeter barrier for fire ants, refer to Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) permit PER14317 (expires 31 December 2021).

Stockpiles of soil should be disturbed:

  1. every 21 days; and
  2. 24 hours prior to moving the material to another location


Applying for a permit

You can request a biosecurity instrument permit (BIP) online or by phoning the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program on 13 25 23.

Each BIP application is assessed on its own merits and can be refused if the movement poses an unacceptable risk of spreading fire ants.

Apply now

Keeping a record

You should keep a written record of the steps you take to ensure the soil is inspected, stored and moved correctly, including chemical treatments and / or disturbance activities. This may include:

1.   dated, written records of the measures you've taken to reduce risk and the details of where the soil has been taken from or to

2.   photographs, site plans and surveyor's records

3.   receipts and records of treatment applied by a licensed pest manager.

Keep these records for a minimum of 2 years.

Program inspectors, who conduct random compliance checks to ensure businesses and individuals are complying with fire ant movement controls, will request these records.

Penalties for not complying with movement controls apply under the Act and other relevant legislation.

More information

If you need additional support, please contact: 

Tivian Trinh
Phone 0427 246 134
Email tivian.trinh@hutchies.com.au

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