Medfly battle confusion

Hills grower Ian Burns. Picture: Bruce Hunt
Hills grower Ian Burns. Picture: Bruce Hunt

The Hills Medfly Initiative (HMI) plan was created in November to help growers with the mediterranean fruit fly (medfly) plague.

Hills growers joined Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA) staff on the HMI’s expert panel.

Agribusiness consultant Peter Cooke, who the Department appointed to facilitate the panel, said the panel had carried out the plan’s first strategy, a best practice guide for growers.

He said having published this guide the panel’s role was now complete.

He said the remaining strategies had to be implemented by industry, namely an Agricultural Produce Commission (APC) committee comprising only growers, not DAFWA staff.

APC chairman Bill Ryan said an APC growers’ committee was a potential mechanism to execute future HMI actions, but this was only one of many possible structures.

Pickering Brook organic grower Ian Burns, who was on the HMI’s expert panel, said his discussions with DAFWA staff indicated Premier Colin Barnett wanted the Department to get out of operational and research work and focus on policy, regulation and legislation.

Mr Burns said DAFWA needed to be in the field working with growers.

He said it should form a standing biosecurity committee with its own staff as well as growers, and the Government should create a dedicated emergency biosecurity fund.

He said DAFWA had ‘capable entomologists working long hours on the medfly issue’ but he suspected next time a biosecurity issue arose the Department would plead lack of funding and ‘dump it on the APC.’

‘If that is the case, what is the Department for?’ he said.

‘With the department undergoing changes, this is exactly the time that this needs to be decided.’