Legislative Council: Wednesday, May 18, 2022


Sheep Blowfly Eradication

The Hon. R.P. WORTLEY (14:47): My question is to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development. Will the minister update the council on the state government's efforts to eradicate sheep blowflies from Kangaroo Island?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:47): I thank the member for his question and the ongoing interest of this chamber in Kangaroo Island. The Malinauskas Labor government is committed to supporting the agriculture and sheep industry on Kangaroo Island and will ensure it is protected, and that's why I am delighted to update the council on this exciting initiative in regard to sheep blowfly.

The South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) will be leading a $3.45 million pilot program aimed at producing sterile flies used for the eradication of sheep blowfly on Kangaroo Island. Sheep blowfly can cause flystrike, which is a disease that affects the health of sheep, particularly the wool, and causes significant economic loss. In fact, I am advised that nationally sheep blowfly causes roughly $284 million a year in economic damage to Australian livestock producers, and that's why it's critical for the state government to support this pilot program.

Set up for the facility to develop a sterile insect technique for sheep blowfly will commence shortly and this will be the first facility, I am advised, in Australia that focuses exclusively on blowflies. By 2024, up to 50 million flies a week are scheduled to be released by the Department of Primary Industries and Regions on Kangaroo Island. In the first instance, we will see the production of a few hundred thousand flies a week but that will eventually move to producing millions a week once the set-up is absolutely complete on Kangaroo Island.

Once this operation is underway, a reduction in sheep blowflies on Kangaroo Island should be recorded and this will reduce the need for traditional control methods such as mulesing and jetting. This will improve the welfare of Kangaroo Island's sheep flock and reduce the risks of control chemicals of flystrike by farmers, and this we know is of course beneficial for the island's precious ecology.

The flies will be released by plane and be able to cover the 4,500 square kilometres of Kangaroo Island. Small-scale experimental releases will take place in spring of this year, with the goal of completely eradicating the pest by 2026. The 18-month trial period will be used to establish the rearing facility and the start of experimental releases. It is expected that the area-wide implementation will be undertaken over 2023 to 2026.

The sterilisation of flies has been proven to be a very successful approach to pest management around the world. We very much hope that this process will be the same in relation to sheep blowflies, that they will be sterilised through exposure to radiation, using an irradiator designed specifically for sterilising insects. Once this process has been completed they will be released into the wild to mate, resulting in non-viable eggs, which result in reduced pest populations in the following generation.

If the Kangaroo Island project proves successful, a long-term goal can include for this method for sheep blowfly on the mainland. The Malinauskas Labor government will continue to ensure that we do everything that is required to ensure we protect the pristine environment of Kangaroo Island from pest species.