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Tuesday, 1 November 1983
Page: 2167

Question No. 555

Mr McVeigh asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 21 September 1983:

(1) Is it a fact that enormous damage is being done to pasture in parts of Tasmania by the root feeding cockchafer.

(2) Is he able to say what investigations are being carried out by the Tasmanian Department of Agriculture aimed at controlling this problem.

(3) Is he able to say whether the South Australian Waite Agricultural Research Institute is assisting in the feasibility of developing biological controls and insect disease cultures.

(4) Does the Government intend to assist in these efforts to combat this very serious problem; if so, what assistance; if not, why not.

Mr Kerin —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) I am aware that the subterranean insect pest known as the pasture cockchafer has been a problem in the northern midlands areas of Tasmania for the past 20 years or more. I understand that in recent years this insect has caused damage to approximately 20,000 hectares of pasture.

(2) I am advised that the Tasmanian Department of Agriculture has in progress a long term program concerning the control of the pest. It has been found that the use of pesticides is not economically feasible on this subterranean insect. Therefore, the control program places priority on developing pasture management techniques which will provide fodder to replace that lost by insect damage, and on the development of pasture species which can tolerate the insect. In addition , a biological control program using nematodes is being developed in collaboration with the CSIRO.

(3) Yes I understand that an insect pathologist from the Waite Agricultural Research Institute is undertaking research in the evaluation of alternative agents for the biological control program.

(4) Responsibility for pest control rests with individual land holders and State authorities. In this particular case, the Commonwealth is providing assistance through the research work of CSIRO.