Plant Health

​​​​​The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources works with its stakeholders to maintain and improve plant health in Australia.

Plant health is critical to the:

  • long-term viability of Australia’s agricultural cropping, horticultural and forestry industries
  • protection of the environment
  • sustainability of animal-based industries.

To keep up to date with our work to protect Australia’s plant health subscribe to our free online newsletter Biosecurity Matters.

Favourable plant health status

Australia has a favourable plant health status, being free from many of the damaging plant pests that occur in other countries. Favourable plant health status helps Australia to maintain and gain access to new domestic and international markets for plants and plant products.

Supporting access to premium markets by improving biosecurity surveillance and analysis in Australia and in our region is a key priority of the Australian Government’s Agricultu​ral Competitiveness White Paper.

Australia's plant health system

We maintain and improve Australia’s favourable plant health status through a nationally coordinated plant health system. This system helps to protect Australia's plant industries and environment from the effects of economically important:

Our plant health system aims to minimise the effects of pests, diseases and weeds should they be detected in Australia or in our region by building surveillance and diagnostic capability and capacity and managing emergency preparedness and response arrangements.

Strengthening surveillance

Through the White Paper the government is investing $200 million over four years as part of strengthening biosecurity surveillance and analysis to better target critical biosecurity risks and support market access.

We are working with our near neighbours, industry and the community to better target surveillance for the National Priority Plant Pests, as well as other unwanted pests, diseases and weeds.

Earlier detection of these pests means lower costs of eradication through emergency preparedness and response arrangements.

National citrus and forest biosecurity surveillance programs 

Through the White Paper investment in strengthening surveillance, the department is working with the Australian Forest Products Association, Citrus Australia, and Plant Health Australia to establish dedicated industry surveillance programs.

These programs will help industries to implement the National Citrus Biosecurity Surveillance Strategy 2018-2028 and the National Forest Biosecurity Surveillance Strategy 2018-2023.

A National Forest Biosecurity Surveillance Group will oversee the investment in forestry surveillance with a National Forest Biosecurity Surveillance Coordinator based in Bunbury, Western Australia. The coordinator will liaise with industry, state governments and other forest industry stakeholders.

A steering committee will also oversee the citrus surveillance program, with a National Citrus Surveillance Coordinator to work directly with growers.

International and domestic movements

We work with the import cargo and shipping industry to strengthen Australia’s biosecurity.

We undertake biosecurity risk analyses to:

  • identify any biosecurity risks associated with the import of plants and plant products
  • establish risk management measures to ensure they can be safely imported, where appropriate.

We work to create new and maintain existing export market opportunities that provide the greatest gains for primary industries.

As a competitive net agricultural exporter, Australia’s plant industries—including horticulture, grains and forestry—are largely dependent on trade to remain profitable and sustainable.

Pests, diseases and weeds can spread from one part of Australia to another. The department contributes to the safe domestic movement of plants and plant products. For information on the movement of plant material within Australia, see the Quarantine Domestic website or call 1800 084 881.

Working together in plant health

Protecting Australia’s human health, social amenity, the economy or the environment is everyone’s responsibility. All Australians should work together to maintain the country’s national plant health system, to prevent or minimise the risk of exotic weeds, pests and diseases entering and spreading in our country.

The Australian Chief Plant Protection Officer (ACPPO) provides leadership in the development of national plant health policy and an international focus for Australia’s plant health. The ACPPO works on a range of activities directed at maintaining our plant health status and preparedness and responding to plant health issues, such as incursions of emergency plant pests. Much of this is done in partnership with state and territory governments, plant industries and Plant Health Australia, a not-for-profit private company with government and industry membership.

Australia’s national arrangements for plant health ensure interested groups responsible for various plant health issues work together in a coordinated and strategic way.

Emergency preparedness and response

Australia is fortunately free from many plant pests and diseases and weeds that may harm its agricultural sector and environment.

A key aspect of the national plant health system is prepa​redness for potential threats and arrangements to enhance our capacity and ability to respond to incidents, and prevent incursions. Should an incursion of an exotic plant pest occur in Australia, we have well established response arrangements in place.

See National pests & disease outbreak for information on national pest, disease and weed incursions.

International plant health activities

International activities aim to provide early warning of exotic pests and mitigate risks associated with plant pests outside Australia.

Through the White Paper we are strengthening regional plant health surveillance and capacity in our nearest neighbours Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste, as well as working in the Indian Ocean Territories of Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands. This complements our existing development programs in other neighbouring countries.

We also coordinate Australia’s contribution to international plant health to ensure international standards support the department’s goals and Australia meets its international phytosanitary obligations in relation to international plant protection.