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East Kimberley mango growers able to export fruit after Kununurra declared free of Mediterranean fruit fly

Updated about 9 hours ago

MAP: Kununurra 6743

Mango growers in the East Kimberley can once again export fruit interstate after the area was officially declared free of Mediterranean fruit fly (medfly) this week.

00:00 AUDIO: Restrictions lifted after Kununurra declared officially free of medfly. (ABC Rural)

The pest was detected at three Kununurra caravan parks in late June, costing the region its highly prized fruit fly free status.

The outbreak, which was the first since 2003, triggered a baiting and trapping program in the lead up to the Ord Valley mango season.

Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA) Kununurra manager Noel Wilson said the eradication was a joint effort with the community and the Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley.

"Everyone pulled together and helped this work really smoothly," Mr Wilson said.

"Members of the community had people accessing their yards and baiting their trees.

"It made things a lot easier for the whole program to progress."

It is believed the medfly were brought into Kununurra by tourists travelling from southern WA where the pest is endemic.

Mr Wilson said it was crucial travellers did not bring fruit north, as it could be infected with medfly and cause an outbreak.

He said it was fortunate the medfly were confined to the caravan parks and were not detected elsewhere.

"If we had ended up with a breeding population here it could have been a lot more expensive and a lot bigger program to carry out an eradication.

"I've been involved in some of the ones back earlier and they were quite large programs we had to put in place."

Previous medfly eradications in Kununurra have been paid for by DAFWA, but this time the money was unavailable.

Instead the Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley paid for the program with its Biosecurity Reserve Funds.

Cost of eradication program

Shire president John Moulden said the response was a success, but the final cost was unknown.

"I haven't got a final figure on it, but the sum we were led to believe by the department was in vicinity of $25,000 to $30,000,"
Mr Moulden said.

"I certainly won't exceed that, but that statement is with the caveat I haven't seen the figures, but the conversations I had is that it will be quite reasonable and modest."

Mr Moulden said the mango industry would have met any extra costs had the eradication bill increased substantially.

"We have an agreement between the three payers in this that if the balance in the Biosecurity Reserve drops below $200,000, that industry would make good the difference," he said.

"If we drew the reserve right down it would be very unlikely we would be able to reinstate it, the way the budget and things work these days.

"We want to make sure it's there in the future. It was intended in the first instance to have a balance of $200,000.

"We got there and I think it's appropriate that we maintain there and industry has said that they will play their part."

A condition of the Shire paying for the eradication was that a working group be formed to re-examine the terms under which the fund would be accessed in the future.

Ord Mango Growers Association secretary, Geoff Warnock, said he thought it was a good idea as there was room for improvement.

"It was a bit of a shock when we lost our (fruit fly free) status," Mr Warnock said.

"I think everybody, Agriculture Department included, has become a bit blasé about fruit fly.

"The signs on the road from the south were a bit run down and the fact that the system is relying on travellers' integrity and honesty to dispose of their fruit before they come into the area is a huge problem.

"I suppose we can't afford to have manned on the arterial roads coming into Kununurra."

Mr Warnock said the way the medfly outbreak was handled was "disturbing."

"Luckily the Shire had those funds set aside from revenue that had been raised previously for eradication and biosecurity,"
he said.

"We were really lucky to be in that position to be able to have the funds there."

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