NSW Locust Control Program Strategy

Purpose

To control plague locust populations in NSW in those situations where they have the potential to inflict significant damage to agricultural industries across regions and properties.

Reasons for controlling locusts

Impact on other farms/districts

Locusts have an ability to form into dense aggregations as hopper bands or adult swarms which allows them to rapidly devastate crops and pastures.

A 1km square adult plague locust swarm may potentially eat as much as 10 tonnes of vegetation per day.

Locust have the ability to migrate over large distances which means all agricultural areas are at risk from damage if a major outbreak of locusts occurs.

As a result, coordinated control programs are needed to minimise the impact on farms and districts at and away from the source of the locusts.

Economic analysis

Economic analysis of the 2004/2005 plague locust control program indicated that for each $1,000 spent in controlling locusts at least $20,000 of crops and pastures were saved.

In 2004/2005 in excess of $1 billion worth of crops and pasture were saved during the locust control program.

Roles in plague locust control

In NSW, Local Land Services (LLS), NSW Department of Primary Industry (NSW DPI), the NSW Farmers' Association and the Australian Plague Locust Commission (APLC) along with land managers and relevant authorities all have important roles to play in managing populations and reducing damage caused by locusts.

Role of Australian Plague Locust Commission (APLC)

The Australian Plague Locust Commission (APLC) is responsible for strategically monitoring and managing locusts across NSW, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria where locusts have the potential to have a cross-jurisdictional impact. The APLC undertakes both ground and aerial surveillance and aerial control only, generally west of the Newell Highway.

Role of NSW Department of Primary Industries

NSW DPI provides state-wide coordination of locust management when control/coordination becomes beyond the capability of LLS and where aircraft become involved. NSW DPI also manages the States insecticide stock and the Pest Insect Destruction Fund.

Role of Local Land Services (LLS)

The LLS coordinate locust management within their district by ensuring that all land managers meet their obligations for locust reporting and control under the Local Land Services Act 2013 (the Act). LLS also assists land managers by supplying approved pre-purchased insecticides to Local Land Services ratepayers and giving advice on monitoring and control techniques.

Role of NSW Land Managers

Land managers are the frontline in the successful monitoring and control of locusts. It is vital (and a requirement under the Act) that they take action to notify their LLS of any presence of locusts on their land and control locusts. Control is most effective and efficient when locust nymphs are banding (2-3 weeks after hatching).

Resources/funding

Pest Insect Destruction Fund (PIDF)

LLS ratepayers pay a levy into the PIDF which is administered by NSW DPI on behalf of the Minister for Primary Industries and used for locust program preparedness and response.

Stakeholder contributions

Salaries of agency staff are borne by their agency.

Individual land managers contribute to the overall success of preparedness and response by meeting the operational cost of ground control of locusts on their properties with the cost of insecticide being met by the PIDF for LLS ratepayers.

Other operational costs are covered by the PIDF, except for government agencies controlling locusts on their own land where the cost is met by the agency concerned.

Program delivery

Stakeholder involvement

The Plague Locust Management Group (PLMG) consists of the Director General of NSW DPI (or delegate), the President of NSW Farmers' Association and the LLS Chair which reports to the Minister for Primary Industries. The PLMG develops strategic direction for the NSW Plague Locust Program, including implementation triggers, investment thresholds and performance measures. This guides the development of appropriate preparedness and response strategies, operational policies and procedures, risk management plans and an annual Strategic Response Plan.

The Plague Locust Consultative Committee (PLCC) has representation from NSW DPI (including Forestry Corporation of NSW), NSW Farmers' Association, LLS, APLC, NSW Environmental Protection Authority, Crown Lands, and Local Government and Shires Association. The PLCC advises the PLMG on operational and policy matters associated with plague locust control. Other government and non government stakeholders provide advice to the PLMG through the PLCC.

The PLCC consults with other relevant stakeholders as required.

Control strategies

Plague Locust Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan

The annual response plan sets out in broad terms operational actions to be undertaken during both preparedness and response phases of the program.

Operating policies and procedures describe in more detail how locust management will be implemented.

Surveillance/monitoring

An important aspect of any locust response plan is surveillance and monitoring. Land managers have a legal obligation to report the presence of locusts on their properties.

LLS's have an important role in implementing surveillance and monitoring programs to determine the extent of locust outbreaks and the success of control methods so that the most efficient and effective campaign can be implemented.

NSW DPI and LLS also utilise surveillance data collected by the APLC in developing a response plan.

The PLMG must have accurate surveillance and monitoring data to ensure sufficient resources are available to control any locust outbreak.

Ground control

Ground control of locusts is critical to the success of any locust control program. If 100 hectares of locust bands are not controlled they may develop into 1,000 hectares of adult swarms.

Ground control is therefore the most effective and efficient method of controlling plague locusts. The locust nymphs are most easily controlled when they congregate together into bands. This is also when locust numbers are at their densest.

Ground control is also effective when large numbers of swarming adult locusts are roosting (mornings and evenings).

Aerial control

Aerial control is not as efficient or effective as ground control. In addition, there are many areas of the state which are not conducive to aerial control due to the type of terrain and other aircraft or environmental hazards. Aerial control is therefore a last resort and will only be used when all ground control options have been exhausted.

NSW Department of Primary Industries will make the final decision to use aircraft to control locusts based on guidelines agreed to by the PLMG. In making the decision NSW DPI staff will take a risk management approach.

Strategic air control of nymphal bands may be undertaken if criteria are met. Aerial control of swarming adults is not a preferred option as this method is not cost efficient, generally ineffective and poses a greater health and safety risk to workers. Generally, before aerial control is considered there must be at least 100 ha of targets in an area. The area concerned must be safe for aerial control activities and must be beyond the capability of land managers to control.  When deciding if control is beyond the capability of land managers, things such as type of terrain, area to be controlled, stage of locusts and the potential impact on others will be taken into account.

Insecticide issues

A range of insecticide types are registered or under permit for plague locust control which will suit a number of different use situations. During a locust control program, a variety of insecticides for ground control, aerial control and biological control will be kept on hand and on order depending on supply availability.

Insecticide is centrally stored and kept on-hand at all times. Insecticide requirements are continually assessed.

The choice of insecticide will be determined by the use situation (eg crop or pasture type), the withholding period for grazing cutting, harvest and slaughter, and buffer zones for sensitive areas such as creeks or houses.

The biological control agent Metarhizium, known commercially as Green Guard®, will be used to control locusts in environmentally sensitive areas or on certified organic properties.

Safety and preparedness

Safety is paramount in any control program. To ensure safe and effective performance in locust control programs, a team of prepared and trained personnel is maintained. Regular auditing will be undertaken to ensure safety and control operations are conducted in a safe and effective manner.

Performance monitoring

Reporting

Regular reports on progress of the control program will be provided to the PLMG and the Minister. This will include appropriate cost benefit analyses on the success of the control program and reporting against the control program Key Performance Indicators.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

  • Minimise impacts of the control program on crops and pastures, ensuring the program has a positive benefit to cost ratio of at least 6:1
  • Sufficient prepared personnel, financial, insecticide and physical resources available to respond to any control program.
  • Contracts with aircraft operators and ground contractors maintained.
  • Minimise negative impacts to crops, pastures and environment from plague locust control insecticides.
  • Effective stakeholder communication is maintained.
  • Locust control operations conducted safely.

Implementation of plague locust plan

Preparedness

After-action reviews will be undertaken after significant control programs. Changes recommended from these reviews will be incorporated into future plague locust plans.

NSW DPI will seek advice from the APLC and LLS on the possibility of locust outbreaks during autumn and winter of each year and plague locust response plans will be developed for consideration of the PLCC and PLMG.

Response

Land managers have a legal responsibility to control locusts particularly on the ground. Insecticide will be provided to LLS rate payers locally.

This insecticide will be provided once locust nymphs have banded.

LLS will coordinate locust control activities as part of their normal operations until the coordination required is beyond their capacity. At this stage LLS regions may support a Local Control Centre (LCC) or a Forward Command Post (FCP). LLS from other areas may be asked to provide staffing for FCPs where activity occurs.

NSW DPI and LLS will activate the LCC as required. NSW DPI will activate the State Coordination Centre (Orange).

Communications

A communication framework for plague locust control has been agreed to by the PLMG.

A communication plan is developed as part of the annual response plan and agreed to by the PLMG. The APLC and other government agencies (eg NSW EPA) will also be consulted on communications issues.

The NSW Farmers' Association, LLS and NSW DPI will maintain appropriate information on their websites regarding progress with the implementation of the response plan.