The Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy (NAQS) was established in 1989 to provide an early warning system for exotic pest, weed and disease detections across northern Australia and to help address unique biosecurity risks facing the region.
With over 10 000 kms of coastline, inlets and islands, northern Australia is vast and remote and vulnerable to exotic pest, weed and disease arrivals from countries to Australia’s north.
Some serious pests and diseases have been found in Torres Strait but are not present on the Australian mainland.
There are a number of ways exotic threats could reach northern Australia: there are natural pathways such as wind and tide movements and animal migrations; and there are human-assisted pathways, such as foreign vessel movements, domestic vessel, aircraft, passenger and cargo movements through Torres Strait, and traditional trade between Papua New Guinea and the outer Torres Strait islands in accordance with Australia’s treaty obligations.
The objectives of NAQS are to:
- identify and evaluate the unique biosecurity risks facing northern Australia
- develop and implement measures for the early detection of targeted risk species
- contribute to national and international initiatives relevant to the strategy
- manage the biosecurity aspects of movements through the Torres Strait risk pathway, and
- engage with stakeholders, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, on measures that support effective biosecurity surveillance and other objectives of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in northern Australia.
To achieve these objectives, the department undertakes the following activities:
- animal and plant health surveillance of targeted pests, diseases and weeds in coastal areas across northern Australia, from Broome in Western Australia to Cairns in Queensland (including Torres Strait)
- biosecurity operations to address biosecurity risks associated with southward movements of people, cargo, aircraft and vessels into and between defined biosecurity zones in Torres Strait, and from these zones to mainland Australia
- public awareness activities delivered under the ‘Biosecurity Top Watch’ initiative
- collaborations with external stakeholders, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and State and Territory agencies in support of biosecurity surveillance and other departmental services
- participation in surveillance and monitoring activities in neighbouring countries for early signs of targeted pests, diseases and weeds.
NAQS activities are delivered via a network of scientific and operational staff based in Broome, Darwin, Nhulunbuy (Gove), Weipa, Bamaga, Cairns and throughout Torres Strait.