Greater Sunraysia Pest Free Area regional co-ordinator Deidre Jaensch.

A $441,000 commitment from Agriculture Victoria has ensured that Queensland Fruit Fly (QFF) management in the Greater Sunraysia area will continue until at least June 2019.

Greater Sunraysia Pest Free Area (GSPFA) regional co-ordinator, Deidre Jaensch, PICTURED, was among the first to welcome the funding boost, which was announced by Minister for Agriculture, Jaclyn Symes, on Monday.

“I’m really pleased that this funding will allow continued assistance to be provided to Victorian residents in the region,” Ms Jaensch said. “There has been great momentum built over the last 18 months, but we still have a long way to go.”

QFF management shifted in the region over the past few months following a change in government funding arrangements.

The GSPFA Industry Development Committee (IDC) also officially ceased operations in early December, with Mildura Rural City Council taking on the role of auspicing the program in the same month to ensure the work of the GSPFA could continue.

The future of the IDC, however, remains in limbo, with the Victorian Government committing to reinvestigating its status in the coming months.

“Fruit fly is very much a community problem, requiring a whole-of-community approach,” Mildura Mayor Simon Clemence said. “As municipal leaders Council has an important role to play, and this new arrangement will ensure support continues to be provided to industry and the general community, particularly during the critical fruit-growing summer months.”

Services provided under the QFF program will also extend to municipalities including Swan Hill and Gannawarra Shire Councils thanks to the increased State funding, and include free QFF host tree removal from home gardens, hot spot investigations, advice to landowners on how to manage fruit fly, information sessions for the general community and growers, and seasonal reminders and regional trends.

Ms Jaensch said reports from the community have been both good and bad, with some people saying it’s the first time in years that they’ve been able to pick clean fruit. 

“On the flip side, there have been daily reports of infested fruit from across the region,” she said. “Warm, humid and sheltered conditions provided by irrigated gardens are ideal for QFF to rapidly multiply and spread.

“This season is panning out to be similar to what we saw last year, when fly numbers started off very low in spring and then skyrocketed in December with the summer storms. We need to remove any stigma associated with QFF and encourage our friends, family and neighbours to seek the information they need to take action.”

Field officers have been busy over the past 12 months trying to increase community awareness by knocking on doors at more than 7600 properties. 

Ms Jaensch said the group has also provided one-on-one advice to more than 950 people at local markets, grower forums and community events.

“People are gradually developing the knowledge and skills they need to prevent fruit fly attack, and it is encouraging to hear their success stories,” she said. “Clean fruit comes at a cost, and many people underestimate the time and money that goes into controlling QFF effectively.”

In the last 18 months, close to 5000 trees were volunteered for removal by home gardeners.

“We have a target of 6000 host trees to be removed by June 30, 2019. Tree removal provides a huge relief for home gardeners in that they no longer have to worry about having to bag the infested fruit and clean up the mess,” Ms Jaensch said.

Summer fruit and vegetables at risk of hosting QFF include apricots, peaches, nectarines, plums, cherries, grapes, avocados, figs, strawberries, tomatoes, capsicums, eggplant and chillies.

For more information about QFF and control methods, visit www.pestfreearea.com.au. To take advantage of the GSPFA free tree removal program contact 5022 0327.