Protecting Victoria from fruit fly outbreak

From a talk by Norm Jones to the Wodonga Historical Society in 2000

I joined the Department Of Agriculture in 1960 as a fruit fly inspector, and commenced work at the Wodonga Fruit Fly Road Block. I did some training there and then joined a squad called the Mobile Squad. Our job was to travel up and down the Murray River’s Victorian side checking road blocks that weren’t operated full time. There were 20 of them. I became the State Supervisor for Fruit Fly control I held that position until I retired.

The permanent fruit fly road blocks in Victoria began in 1958. The first was set up on the Lincoln Causeway, just south- east of the Murray River. But prior to 1958 there were a few road blocks operated and in fact there were temporary spot checks operated from the Melbourne Road opposite the Drive-in Theatre and they actually started in 1956 and ran periodically, the idea being to see how much fruit was coming into Victoria and how much of that fruit was infested with fruit fly. From these findings they decided it was important to try to prevent fruit getting into the State so that they could lessen the incidence of fruit fly outbreaks.

The reason that the Department wanted to do that was because Victoria was at that stage one of the main fruit exporting states of Australia and it was necessary to protect the fruit industry so that fruit fly didn’t become established in those orchards.

Victoria set up a system of regulations that required certain things to happen for fruit to come into the State. Some species of fruit were totally prohibited for many years, others were allowed in on inspection, others were allowed in if they had been treated in a certain way.

That was the case as far as the road blocks were concerned coming into Victoria and that went on until 1980. In 1980 the road blocks were closed on the basis that we were becoming overpowered with the amount of traffic coming into the State. We just couldn’t cope any more. It was far more costly to try and run the road block than to combat an outbreak if it occurred, so the powers that be decided to disband the road blocks.