Earlier this year, the South Australian Government implemented a 'zero tolerance' policy in a bid to protect the Riverland's horticulture industry after an outbreak of fruit fly at Loxton. The strict changes saw people caught with uncertified fruit at the Yamba Quarantine Station fined a minimum of $375.
Such complains of Australian citizens are not unheard of since the new and stricter rules, but South Australian Primary Industries Minister Tim Whetstone rejected claims biosecurity officers have been over the top in their reaction to some people declaring fruit at the checking station.
"People aren't happy with change," he said. "It takes time to adjust, the staff were trained, we put on an extra 14 staff, we have spent $2 million upgrading the infrastructure at Yamba so we could streamline the process so people didn't have to wait the 45 minutes."
Rushed policy increased risk of fruit fly outbreak
Labor MP Blair Boyer told ABC Radio Adelaide that documents obtained under freedom of information showed the "rushed nature" of the policy had put the state at an increased risk of a fruit fly outbreak: "Because the policy was so rushed the necessary approvals from the EPA [Environment Protection Authority] and groups like that weren't received in time for the fruit that was being seized to be moved out of the zone.”
Blair added that bins were left overflowing with rotten fruit for more than a month. "[They] had to be put in skip bins in trucks and driven back through containment lines and buried on the other side of the quarantine point."
"People are throwing out a heap of fruit in a manner that's not consistent with keeping us fruit fly free because they are hurling it out the window because they didn't realise they are about to hit a checkpoint and be fined."