Cassowary Coast banana growers have joined forces with Cassowary Coast Regional Council and local authorities to help address serious concerns over the number of people illegally entering banana farms, putting in jeopardy their $600 million industry.
A recent increase in reports of trespass onto banana farms in the Tully and Innisfail areas, has prompted a united campaign by the Cassowary Coast Panama Disease Tropical Race 4 (TR4) Feral Pig Program.
The group is Chaired by Cassowary Coast Regional Council Mayor John Kremastos and includes the Australian Banana Growers’ Council (ABGC), Biosecurity Queensland, Queensland Police, Canegrowers, Department of Defence and Department of Environment and Science.
Together, the multiple agencies are warning that entering any farm without permission increased the risk of spreading the devastating soil borne Panama TR4, which poses a grave threat to Australia’s entire banana industry.
ABGC Deputy Chair Leon Collins said offenders involved in illegally entering farms included local hunters and tourists, as well as unrelated incidents of trespass involving willful damage and theft.
“As an industry we have done everything in our power to fend off TR4,” Mr Collins said.
“ABGC, growers, government and industry at large have gone to great lengths to control and contain the disease, particularly through stringent biosecurity controls, since the first detection in the Tully Valley in March 2015.
“There is no other country in the world that has had similar success in containing this disease.
“However, just one person, one dog or vehicle, entering a banana farm illegally, without adhering to strict biosecurity protocols, puts all of this effort in jeopardy.
“And, if this disease does spread more broadly, it will not only affect farmers’ own livelihoods, but as the main employer and economic driver for the Cassowary Coast, it will also have a huge impact on the local communities that rely so heavily on the industry.”
Panama TR4 is a soil borne disease that can be transferred by people, animals, vehicles and other machinery entering and exiting banana properties.
Chair of the group and Cassowary Coast Regional Council Mayor John Kremastos said illegal trespass can also have a negative effect on the success of critical coordinated feral pig management programs that are being undertaken to manage the potential risk of feral pigs spreading this disease.
“Council has a big role to support the agricultural businesses. We are not the fun police, but it is imperative that people do not trespass, but rather seek permission before entering a property.
“We have had known instances where our pig traps have been interfered with by members of the public and trapped pigs have been released. This is unbelievable given the coordinated effort spent eradicating pigs to stop Panama TR4.”
Biosecurity Queensland’s Panama TR4 Program Leader Rhiannon Evans, said the Queensland Government welcomed the multi-agency approach to addressing recent trespass concerns.
“Biosecurity Queensland’s Panama TR4 Program continues to support the banana industry to control and contain Panama TR4 through surveillance, compliance, and education of the importance of biosecurity measures to protect farms,” Ms Evans said.
“We welcome this joint-agency effort supporting the Far North’s banana industry as one of the region’s main economic contributors in the fight against this disease.”
Local Queensland Police representatives recently met with Cassowary Coast banana growers to give advice on how to prosecute people who trespass onto their farms. Growers and members of the public were urged to report any incidence of illegal entry onto their properties directly to their local police station.
The Queensland Government is providing $900,000 funding to the Cassowary Coast Panama Disease Tropical Race 4 (TR4) Feral Pig Program for the collaborative program as part of the Panama TR4 response and aims to reduce the risk of Panama TR4 being spread by feral pigs.
Anyone with information about illegal trespass is urged to contact their local police station.
Photo: Cassowary Coast Regional Council Mayor John Kremastos, Australian Banana Growers Council Deputy Chair Leon Collins and Tully Police Officer Rod Stanley withCassowary Coast Panama Disease Tropical Race 4 (TR4) Feral Pig Program agency stakeholders.
Cassowary Coast Regional Council: 0417 721 754
Australian Banana Growers Council: 0428 038 330
Queensland Police: 07 4068 4000