In our vast country you don’t need a passport to cross interstate borders, nor do you have to worry about understanding a different language (though some might disagree) or using other currency. But it is crucial to understand what you can – and cannot – carry into a different state, and all interstate travellers need to be aware of the legal obligations in regard to carrying fruit and vegetables.
Having travelled extensively in Australia, I’ll be the first to admit it can be a bit of a pain to adhere to the strict quarantine laws. However, the reasons behind these regulations are compelling and should encourage anyone to do the right thing – Australia’s unique and fragile environment and the livelihoods of agricultural growers depend on us.
For example, in north-west Victoria, a single female Queensland fruit fly was caught in a monitoring trap in suburban Mildura. With immediate effect, the Department of Primary Industries established a 15km restricted zone around the point of discovery.
An eradication campaign was undertaken and extra restrictions were placed on growers within that zone for a period of four months. These measures might seem radical or even unnecessary to some, but reality is that one fruit fly has the potential to destroy a multi-million dollar fruit export industry that is vital to the survival of our regional communities.
UNDER THE SKIN
Infested fruit can look perfectly sound on the outside. On the inside, infested fruit often looks brown and mushy. Fruit flies generally cannot travel very far, unless they hitch a ride in your fruit or vegetables when you are travelling. This poses the greatest threat to fruit fly-free areas, so the general public plays a significant role in the management of fruit fly in the Fruit Fly Exclusion Zones (FFEZ).
Fruit flies are different from ordinary ‘house’ flies. The two species that cause problems in Australia are the Mediterranean fruit fly (found in Western Australia) and the Queensland fruit fly (found in the Northern Territory, Queensland, parts of New South Wales and the eastern corner of Victoria). Both these flies are much smaller than house flies and it’s important to be able to tell the difference.
If you do find what you think are fruit flies in your garden or in your fruit or vegetables, phone the Fruit Fly Hotline for advice on 1300 666 010 (during business hours).
Fruit Fly Exclusion Zones (FFEZ)
So where exactly are the Fruit Fly Exclusion Zones and what are the rules and regulations?
Australian state regulations vary but, as a guide, the following groups of fruit and vegetables cannot be taken into the FFEZ:
- Pome fruits, such as apple, crab apple, pear and quince.
- Tropical or temperate fruits, such as avocado, banana, berries, feijoa, fig, guava, grapes, loquats, mango, passionfruit, pawpaw and persimmon.
- Any fruiting vegetable, such as capsicum, chilli, eggplant, tomato and tamarillo.
- Citrus fruits, such as cumquat, grapefruit, lemon, lime, mandarin and orange.
Following is a description of the zones and fruit and vegetables you are not allowed to carry with you, per state.
NSW and ACT
The Greater Sunraysia Pest Free Area is located in the far-west and Murray regions. You are not allowed to take fruit, including capsicum, chilli, tomato and eggplant, as well as honey and rice into this zone. Fresh fruit salad is allowed.
The NT has the Ti Tree FFEZ which extends from Tennant Creek to Alice Springs. You are not allowed to take fruit, including bananas, melons, passionfruit, capsicum, chilli, tomato, eggplant, cucumber, zucchini, pawpaw, pumpkin and squash, into the area. Honey is not allowed, either. Fresh fruit salad is allowed.
Restrictions also apply when travelling south from Darwin to prevent the spread of the pest melon thrips. The following produce must not be carried south along the Stuart Highway beyond the Adelaide River township: beans, capsicum, chilli, cucumber, eggplant, melons, mango fruit/plants, okra, pumpkin, silverbeet, squash, tomato and zucchini.
The entire state is a pest quarantine area for bananas, so no bananas are allowed into the Sunshine State. Most fruit and vegetables can be taken into Queensland, except for mangoes and pawpaw.
You cannot enter South Australia with fruit or vegetables of any type including fresh, unprocessed fruit and fruiting vegetables such as capsicum, chilli, tomato, tamarillo, cucumber, pumpkin, squash, zucchini, melon and eggplant.
The Greater Sunraysia Pest Free Area was established to protect fruit production areas along the Murray River from the Queensland fruit fly. Do not take fruit or fruiting vegetables, including capsicum, chilli, tomato and eggplant, into this area. Fresh fruit salad is allowed.
The Carnarvon and Kununurra areas have restrictions on bananas – only certified bananas are allowed. The Kimberley region prohibits broccoli, lettuce and spinach in the shires of Broome and Wyndham. The Ord River Irrigation Area does not allow uncertified citrus and stone fruits from April 1 to November 30.
Fresh fruit and vegetables are not allowed to enter the Apple Isle, including fresh fruit salad, potatoes and vegetable/summer salad. Fish and honey are also not allowed. Plant and animal quarantine examinations are conducted at all points of entry into Tasmania.
DO YOUR BIT
So what can you do to keep the FFEZ free from these small critters? It’s quite simple really: eat it or bin it. If you reach a border with produce that cannot be taken across, eat the food or throw it in the quarantine bins. Bins are located at domestic airports, ferry terminals and state and quarantine zone borders.
Reality is, if we all do our bit we protect not only our beautiful country but also the future of those who make a living out of growing fruits and vegetables. It’s a small price to pay.