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Biosecurity experts outline dos and don'ts prompted by SA fruit fly outbreak

Two Queensland fruit fly outbreaks in South Australia's Riverland region in the past two weeks have caused serious problems for the region's fruit producers, who are working in a frenzy to adhere to new quarantine restrictions.


But it's also left the wider community and travellers visiting during the region's peak tourist season questioning what the rules are when living within or passing through a fruit fly suspension zone.


Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA) has declared two separate 1.5km outbreak areas: one around Monash and Glossop, and another encompassing Renmark West, Renmark South, Renmark and Crescent.


Meanwhile, a further 15km suspension zone has also been established around both surrounding areas where a number of quarantine restrictions will apply until at least March 15.


Can I move fruit within the suspension zone?

Biosecurity SA plant health operations group manager Nick Secomb said the current legal requirements meant people could not move fruit outside the suspension area boundary unless it had been treated.


"There's some freedom to allow movement within and around that 15-kilometre suspension zone … but if there's no need to do it, we'd rather you didn't," he said.

"It's good practice during a fruit fly response to limit the amount of fruit that's moving, even within a suspension area."

Fruit within the 1.5km outbreak area must not be moved around at all.


Mr Secomb said PIRSA was asking people from outside the region, particularly Adelaide, to not bring fruit into the Riverland at all.


But he said rules allowed fruit to be brought into the region if a receipt of purchase was present to prove it was bought outside a fruit fly zone.


How are the roadblocks being implemented?

PIRSA runs permanent quarantine stations at Yamba, between Renmark and Mildura, and in the neighbouring Mallee region between Pinnaroo and Murrayville.


Mr Secomb said the two Riverland suspension area boundaries were currently being bolstered by random roadblocks, which may occur anywhere at any time.


"We don't publicise [their movements], because they're a random crew and we don't want people to be able to predict when and where they're going to be enforcing control," he said.


"Rather than [introduce] more, we might look at where we're applying them.


"We might need to do more work to support the Riverland outbreaks than in other parts of the state where we would've been scheduling other random roadblocks."


Meanwhile, there were a number of fruit disposal bins permanently set up around the Riverland, which were being checked weekly.


"You can only see a little yellow bin above the ground, but they're actually a really big underground pit that takes several months to fill," Mr Secomb said.


How is PIRSA responding to the outbreaks?

The state's biosecurity team said it was still trying to work out how the fruit fly larvae got into the Riverland.

"We know it's come in on fruit … but in terms of which fruit it came in and when it came in, we haven't been able to find an answer on that yet," Mr Secomb said.

"We've had a number of people ringing the hotline over the Christmas break. I don't know of anyone who has rung and who hasn't been called back within an hour of reporting [a potential finding].


"We're obviously at a point where we're trying to deal with a whole lot of growers very quickly and that's putting pressure on everyone."


Mr Secomb said he was confident PIRSA and Biosecurity SA had the tools to eradicate the pest, as has been done in the past.


These measures included applying fruit fly bait twice a week in outbreak areas and once a week in other parts, collecting and disposing of fruit to break the fruit fly's life cycle, and applying chemicals under trees to any site where larvae were detected.


How do you dispose of fruit if you don't have green waste disposal?

Anyone living within the 15km suspension area who needs to dispose of fallen fruit should securely bag it up to destroy any fruit fly that may be within it.


Mr Secomb said the bagged fruit should be left for a couple of days and frozen or disposed of on a private property if possible.


"It all depends on temperature. On a really hot day any fruit fly that might be inside the fruit in a bag is forced out really quickly," he said.


"But if people are going to bag it up and freeze the produce immediately then that's fine as it's going to kill any fruit fly in the bag anyway.


"We can't move it out of the area though … and [people should] contact the local council to see if it can go in the red bin."


Anyone seeking further information can contact the PIRSA fruit fly hotline on 1300 666 010.


Growers needing market access advice on which treatments to apply to their produce and what certification is required to move fruit should call 1800 255 556.


Photo: Queensland fruit fly has been detected in South Australia's Riverland region (source: Chris O'Connor).


Acknowledgement: this article was reproduced from a media release by ABC News.



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