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Media Release - 12 January 2018
 
Community support welcome in fruit fly fight
IMPORTANT

Remember, almost every type of fruit and fruiting vegetable is a potential host for fruit fly.
 

  • Don’t bring fruit or vegetables into the Pest Free Area
     

  • Advise visiting friends and relatives not to bring fruit or vegetables with them

Assistance is available now for the removal of fruit trees from non-commercial properties across the GSPFA

The Greater Sunraysia Pest Free Area says it’s pleased at a rush of registrations for its free tree removal program in response to community discussion on the region’s fruit fly problem.

Fruit fly numbers have exploded this season, and a voluntary tree removal program is available to residents who can’t manage infestations or no longer wish to harvest the fruit.

“People are passionate about their fruit trees and for many people, it’s a hard decision to remove them, but it’s encouraging so many people have come forward that we’ve removed 850 trees in the past year – more than 160 just in the past month,” said GSPFA chair Karen Hensgen.

“Removing your fruit trees is certainly not compulsory, but the fruit fly issue for Sunraysia has changed,” she said.

“Unmanaged fruit trees are messy, smelly and it’s hard, constant, expensive work to manage trees, so they don’t harbour flies.”

“We’re simply offering people in urban areas and private residences in rural areas the chance to have their trees removed without charge so that they no longer have to worry about the problem.”

Ms Hensgen said a rapid rise in fruit fly numbers in 2014 prompted the implementation of charges by the stone fruit, table grape and citrus industries to help fund management programs coordinated by GSPFA.  Grower charges have since contributed $1.9 million to fruit fly management programs and have helped to leverage Government funding.

Wet summers and humidity had provided ideal conditions for fruit fly, Ms Hensgen said.

“Fruit fly is no longer a pest that is carried here each season in fruit or vegetables being brought in.  There are mass numbers of fruit flies already in our boundaries, living and breeding here, and we are responding to that,” Ms Hensgen said.

“The rise in numbers is no-one’s fault – but, as a community, we need to take a new approach into the future if we’re to stay on top of the issue.

“Fruit fly is the enemy – not growers and not the people growing fruit in their back yard.  We need to work together to manage fruit fly and the data shows our approach over the past three years is working.”

Fruit fly monitoring showed fruit fly numbers increased from zero detections in 2011, to a peak in January 2015.

“Since we have been implementing mass trapping, tree removal and hygiene works, community awareness has increased and there is a general downward trend,” Ms Hensgen said.

“Together we’ve reduced detections over the past three years by 66 percent, which is encouraging but it takes time for our efforts to show up in the data and we still have a long way to go.”

Ms Hensgen said the impacts of not managing fruit fly effectively would ripple through the community and economy, affecting everyone in the Greater Sunraysia area. 

“Horticulture is a $1.4 billion-dollar industry and the wellbeing of sectors like citrus, table grapes and stone fruit has a huge effect on our towns through the economic activity and growth they provide,” she said.

“Without our horticulture, our towns, our jobs and our property prices will decline like many other regional centres that aren’t fortunate enough to have strong industries underpinning them.”

Ms Hensgen said fruit fly was the number one insect biosecurity threat to the health of regional horticulture and Government, industry and community all had a shared responsibility in managing it.

“There are no quick-fix solutions – we have a resident fruit fly population and simply too many roads and highways entering into our region to be able to implement road blocks,” she said.

“For our communities, the answer is that we all take ownership of the fruit fly problem and work together to manage this pest.”