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Riverland's backyard fruit trees could be stripped to stop the spread of fruit fly

The Riverland's fruit fly free status could be at risk following two new outbreaks of Queensland fruit fly in the region, which has extended fruit movement restrictions across the outbreak zone until at least November this year.

South Australia is the only mainland Australian state that is classed as fruit fly free, with the Riverland identified as having a special pest free status within that zone.

Member for Chaffey Tim Whetstone confirmed the Riverland's fruit fly free status still stands, despite five outbreak zones in the fruit bowl region, which include the two new ones announced yesterday.

One is at Berri, where maggots were found in a resident's home grown fruit, and one at Pike River, where flies were found in a commercial consignment which originated from the area.

Backyard fruit trees could be stripped

Mr Whetstone said he was concerned about losing the region's status as the problem keeps getting worse, and the majority of detections were coming from people's backyards, rather than commercial orchards.

"The only way to keep our status is to be more proactive. It's going to add extra cost, there's no doubt about that," he said.

"I'm meeting with the minister this morning. We are going to consider stripping people's backyard trees for the good of the region.

"It's a bit of short term pain, but for our commercial reputation, for the Riverland's reputation, we are going to have to do some hard decision making."

The local member and former citrus and winegrape grower said the strategy for dealing with the outbreak was not enough and a more mechanised and advanced system needed to be considered.

"I think we need to lead by example. My personal view is we're using 1996 technology. There's better ways to eradicate and address this issue," he said.

"We need to have a mechanised system. We can't just fiddle around the edges with organic baits, because it's clearly not working.

"If we aren't going to do more, Queensland fruit fly will be endemic."

Concerns around citrus as cooler months approach

Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA) said it was confident in its fruit fly eradication measures, which will continue to be applied in the two new outbreak zones.

"We've been using these for a long time and they have proved time and again to be effective in eradicating outbreaks," Executive Director of Biosecurity Nathan Rhodes said.

He explained PIRSA's focus on different host fruits will change as the season changes, with citrus to become the focus as the cooler months approach.

"Obviously citrus is more of an issue than stone fruit has been in the past. So we'll be focusing around the movement of those sorts of host produce," he said.

"It does in the short-term [compromise our fruit fly free status] … suspending it for the affected areas.

"We work with the Commonwealth on this space and our state trading jurisdictions, to make sure we can manage the movement of fruit fly produce."

Riverland fruit fly council committee member and stone fruit grower Jason Size said the local growers will feel the pain, particularly those in the citrus industry.

"We were hoping that we weren't going to end up with the over-winter outbreak scenario that we currently have…so that puts pressure on the citrus industry and others as well. That will hurt," he said.

"We are in a unique situation where we have a few outbreaks happening at once, so that is a concern, but I think we do have a good track record of cleaning up these outbreaks.

"It's something we've got to treat a bit more seriously, lose that complacency and look at our own backyard. My biggest concern is making sure we have the resources and staff to handle this problem."

Photo: Member for Chaffey Tim Whetstone says backyard fruit trees might need to be stripped of their fruit (Source: ABC Rural: Jessica Schremmer).

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