Legislative Council: Tuesday, May 30, 2023


Sterile Insect Technology

The Hon. J.E. HANSON (15:45): Thank goodness they are not going to keep chipping away at that. My question is to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development. Will the minister update the chamber on the expansion of the Port Augusta Sterile Insect Technology facility?

An honourable member interjecting:


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:45): I thank the honourable member for his very important question. As members in this place would be aware, the South Australian government is committed to retaining our fruit fly free status and we continue to apply significant efforts to eradicate the pest from the outback sites in the Riverland.

We know that fruit fly is one of the world's worst pests and that the farmgate value of the South Australian horticultural produce that is vulnerable to fruit fly is $1.3 billion. That is why we need to do everything we can to ensure that we protect commercial fruit and vegetables, along with backyard growers, from the pest.

Just one piece of fruit infested with larvae can result in an outbreak that could potentially cost millions of dollars. Sterile Insect Technology, known as SIT, forms a vital part of the ongoing eradication efforts. SIT programs are acknowledged worldwide as a highly effective tool for managing outbreaks of fruit fly. South Australia has shown significant leadership in the development of SIT as an operational tool in Australia and we now manage the only facility in Australia that is capable of rearing large numbers of sterile Queensland fruit fly. We have deployed hundreds of millions of SIT fly in the Riverland in recent times.

I am delighted to advise that construction has begun on the expansion of PIRSA's Port Augusta Sterile Insect Technology facility to double the production of the sterile Queensland fruit fly from 20 million flies per week to 40 million flies. The original SIT fly facility was constructed in 2015 and I understand has reached its operational capacity of producing 20 million sterile flies a week. Construction is expected to be completed around August 2023 with flies ready to be deployed over the current Riverland outbreak area for the spring campaign.

The expansion will occur next to the existing building using prefabricated materials securely joined to form the rooms that are required. I am advised that the construction of the expanded site will have little impact on the ongoing production of SIT flies at the site in the meantime. The $3 million expansion of the site is being funded under the National Building Resilience to Manage Fruit Fly Package which supports Australia's national fruit fly management efforts.

Another advantage to this expansion is the opportunities it presents to use the SIT flies for outbreaks around the country on an as needs basis potentially in the future. Previously, before the expansion of SIT technology, management of these outbreaks has been reliant on insecticides but this technology offers a long-term more sustainable management solution to controlling Queensland fruit fly, according to my advice.

This SIT facility will provide a critical service to help eradicate Qfly in pest-free areas across the Riverland and reduce pest pressures in key production areas, particularly in the Riverland. Another advantage of SIT technology is that it contributes to reduced pest damage and cost to producers who must treat their produce before it can be exported.

I would like to thank both the commonwealth government and Minister Murray Watt—along with Citrus South Australia, in particular the chair, Mr Doecke—for their commitment and financial support in joining with the state government in delivering this project. I look forward to visiting the expanded site once it is complete in a few months' time and being able to update the chamber on the progress.