Soaring passengers, biosecurity confidence in Cairns

The number of biosecurity risk items seized by Australian biosecurity officers at Cairns International Airport decreased by 11 per cent in 2016.

Head of biosecurity at the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Lyn O’Connell, said the fall in risk items came despite a growing number of international arrivals, which were up 20 per cent year on year in 2015–16.

“Biosecurity is a shared responsibility—and for international arrivals at our airports it begins when packing on another continent,” Ms O’Connell said.

“Passengers arriving in Cairns have clearly been taking that responsibility seriously and that’s great news for the Cairns region.

“Exotic pests and diseases can easily find their way into the country with travellers on items like meat, fruit, seafood and egg products.

“The fewer items like these we see coming through the airport, the less our $64 billion agricultural industries and natural environment are placed at risk.

“That ensures that Australia remains a country worth visiting.” 

Items seized at Cairns International Airport in 2016 included:

  • 333 incidents of contaminated equipment, such as footwear, down more than 26 per cent on 2015
  • 799 live plants, plant products or seeds, a decrease of 24 percent on 2015
  • 1104 fruit or fruit product items, a decrease of 3 per cent on 2015
  • 1130 animal products, including seafood, a decrease of 8 per cent on 2015
  • 267 grain, nut and legume products, an increase of 14 per cent on 2015.

Ms O’Connell said while any of these items could jeopardise Australia’s strong biosecurity status, the decrease in detections was welcome.

“Australia’s reputation as a consistent provider of high-quality agricultural produce that is free of pests and diseases underpins our access to international markets,” Ms O’Connell said.

“Raw peanuts, for example, could carry a fungus disease known as peanut smut—which has the potential to cripple a domestic production and export industry worth up to $30 million.

“When people make the right decision about what they pack—and declare—it’s good for the Cairns region, it’s good for Queensland and it’s good for the nation.”

For more information on what can and can’t be brought to Australia visit agriculture.gov.au/travelling.​

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