Coolbellup flies into quarantine

Local produce lovers Erin Ball and Jodie Vennitti. Photo by Pip Waller

COOLBELLUP has been placed under quarantine after an egg-carrying Queensland fruit fly was caught in a local trap.

The Department of Agriculture and Food says it would cost WA’s $1 billion commercial fruit and vegetable industry $38m every year 

to control Qfly if it became established. 

But closer to home the quarantine has had a big impact on the suburb’s thriving produce-sharing collective Food is Free Coolbellup, which encourages residents to visit each other’s garden beds to get to know each other and share in the harvest.

“If I go visit a friend, I can’t take my fruit and veg with me,” says Jodie Vennitti, who founded the project seven years ago.

Contained

But she’s she’s confident the threat can be contained if the community responds quickly to the quarantine by bagging trees and picking fallen fruit.

“As part of the quarantine, all fruit waste must now go into general waste instead of the green bin.”

Living on a generous 728sqm block, Ms Vennitti’s property includes a verge covered with produce beds, meat and egg-laying chickens and 10 different compost systems in the vibrant back garden.

“I bought my property whilst studying the social side of sustainability at ECU. It’s my retreat from the world,” she said.

“In our individualist society having people over to your house isn’t comfortable. The project gets people out of their comfort zone because it encourages them to come and work on the verge so you get to know your neighbours.”

With a background in sustainability, Ms Vennitti says she isn’t threatened by the QFly.

“I encourage biodiversity in my garden as a way to manage pests. The Native Paper Wasp for example eats caterpillar larvae.”

Kwinana resident and fellow urban farmer Erin Bell says QFly in WA would be a bigger problem for farmers than homegrown producers. 

“In spaces like ours, the biodiversity is really rich and the soil is healthy. You’re more attentive to it, you’re here every day so you could get onto a detection quicker.” Ms Bell said.

“Commercial farming wouldn’t be as sustainable because it is so susceptible through having only one type of fruit for 500 acres that the QFly eats. If they lose their whole crop then they’ve lost the majority of their money for the year.”

Ms Vennitti believes a side-effect of the Covid-19 pandemic will be locals recognising the value of a quarantine.

Residents in Coolbellup and surrounding suburbs are encouraged to contact the Pest and Disease Information Service if they suspect they have seen a QFly.

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