The Hon. ERIC ROOZENDAAL: My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industries. How is the locust situation developing now in New South Wales, and how are control efforts progressing on the ground?
The Hon. IAN MACDONALD: I thank the honourable member for his question and commend him for his genuine interest in the locust problem. I begin my answer by commending front-line staff and farmers for their achievements so far in our locust control program. There is no doubt that their efforts over the past couple of months have already helped to reduce the risk of crop damage this spring. I can inform honourable members that new reports of locust hatchings have fallen for the third week in a row—down to 845 new hatchings this week. This is nearly half the number reported two weeks ago and brings the total number of hatchings around New South Wales to more than 10,208. It includes 174 new reports in Coonabarabran followed by 137 in Dubbo, 111 in Mudgee-Merriwa, 104 in Forbes and 90 in Molong.
While we welcome the news that the hatchings appear to be slowing down, it does not mean that the fight has been won. In fact, as we have been reminding farmers this week, we are just now approaching the most unpredictable and challenging part of our locust control campaign. Over the next few weeks we will see more reports of adult locusts starting to take wing, as is to be expected with the warmer weather. I must say that I saw a few on Sunday when I was driving from Warren to Dubbo and also at Narromine, where the citrus program was launched.
The Hon. Duncan Gay: What did you back at the races?
The Hon. IAN MACDONALD: I went to the races. I love the little quips of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition because they give me the opportunity to explain to the House some of my activities at Warren. For instance, at 5 o'clock on the Friday I met with representatives of the management of Auscot. We spent two hours going through their modelling of the Macquarie River valley and findings over the last 120 years on flows in the Macquarie River.
The Hon. John Della Bosca: I would bet Duncan had his feet up then!
The Hon. IAN MACDONALD: The Deputy Leader of the Opposition would well and truly have had his feet up at Crookwell. Then on Sunday, to show how active I am, we visited the new fish ladders that have been put in place.
The Hon. Duncan Gay: What did you do on Saturday?
The Hon. IAN MACDONALD: On Saturday I attended the Warren races, as a guest of—
The Hon. John Ryan: Point of order: I do not know what races and fish ladders have to do with locusts. Perhaps the Minister might be more relevant in his answer.
The PRESIDENT: Order! I remind the Minister that interjections are disorderly and that he should ignore them.
The Hon. IAN MACDONALD: Yes, I did attend the races, at the invitation of the mayor, Rex Wilson.
The Hon. John Ryan: Point of order: My point of order relates, once again, to relevance. The Minister continues to stray from the question. I am sure he will readily entertain a supplementary question and waste yet more time of the House.
The PRESIDENT: Order! I remind the Minister that he must be relevant.
The Hon. Duncan Gay: He can't be relevant.
The Hon. IAN MACDONALD: I am relevant—totally! We know from every single locust outbreak that the campaign moves inevitably from the land to the air as the locusts mature. Our best chance of limiting the damage is to launch an all-out assault while locusts are still banding on the ground. We have issued enough locust control chemicals to treat a total of 426,000 hectares—around 100,000 hectares were treated last week. The majority of chemicals has been used for critical ground control.
The Hon. Duncan Gay: What are you doing with the national parks?
The Hon. IAN MACDONALD: We have been spraying.
The Hon. ERIC ROOZENDAAL: I wish to ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister elucidate his answer?
The Hon. IAN MACDONALD: Aerial spraying by the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries is planned this week for the Tamworth, Mudgee, Coonabarabran, Dubbo, Forbes, Molong and Narrandera areas. Last Thursday I had the opportunity of watching such operations in Mudgee.
The Hon. Michael Gallacher: Was there a race meeting planned?
The Hon. IAN MACDONALD: No, it was not a race meeting. Is the honourable member antagonistic toward a member who is invited to a regional country race meeting? Is he suggesting that I should not have attended a country race meeting to which a regional mayor invited me? Is that what he is saying? If I get another invite or invites from other excellent mayors around this State to attend race meetings, I will consider them and if I have time I will attend those meetings. I do not care for the interjections of the Opposition. The next time I attend a country race course and am given some good tips I will be good natured enough to call the Deputy Leader of the Opposition so that he can put a bet on at the Crookwell TAB.
We have planned to carry out aerial surveillance for the Tamworth and Northern Slopes boards. The Australian Plague Locust Commission also plans to carry out aerial surveying control in the Coonamble, Condobolin, Hay, Hillston and Narrandera districts. So far response teams have used aerial control to treat 740 targets, covering more than 132,000 hectares. I watched a fair bit of it last week. We are seeing low-density swarms developing across New South Wales. On the weekend the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries treated swarm targets near Gunnedah covering about 800 hectares. Swarms have been treated also in the Dubbo district, with 1,000 hectares sprayed yesterday west of Gilgandra. The Australian Plague Locust Commission is spraying swarms in its control territory.