20 years of Trans-Tasman biosecurity bonds

Australia and New Zealand mark cooperation to combat the destructive impact of exotic pests and diseases with the 20th anniversary of a group set up to control biosecurity risks, while building trans-Tasman trade ties.

At a meeting yesterday in Auckland,  both countries held talks on how to combat new threats like African swine fever two decades after establishment of the Consultative Group on Biosecurity Cooperation (CGBC), set up by ministers in 1999 under one of the world’s most comprehensive trade pacts—the Australia-New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement.

Today that cooperation extends from harmonised regulation into high-tech fields. Australia and New Zealand last year commenced simultaneous world-first trials or a Real Time Tomography (RTT) Scanner with a 3D x-ray unit at Melbourne International Airport and Auckland Airport, as well as automatic algorithms to improve detection and targeting of threats.

"Detecting biosecurity risks at the border has never been more important for both Australia and New Zealand, with increasing passenger, mail and cargo numbers bringing economic and tourism benefits, while also raising biosecurity risks,” said Head of Australian biosecurity, Lyn O'Connell.

“Our close biosecurity cooperation with New Zealand is a pillar that helps uphold trust and a two-way trade relationship in goods and services that last year was worth more than $29 billion, including agricultural products.

“Through this group we have been able to limit the risks posed by diseases such as foot and mouth and African swine fever, while jointly trialling world-first technologies like 3-dimensional X-ray scanners that can help strengthen the ability of both countries to detect biosecurity risks into the future.”

Since October 2017, the group has been known as Australia-New Zealand Biosecurity Cooperation (ANZBC). Senior members meet regularly to discuss trade opportunities, while keeping both countries protected from biosecurity threats which could do serious economic damage if they gained a foothold. 

The ANZBC provides advice and direction to harmonise animal and plant health measures that could affect cross-Tasman trade, as well as two-way investment worth more than $143 billion in 2018.

Since the group’s establishment, both countries have held exercises to deal with a potential breach of biosecurity protections by devastating foot and mouth disease and other exotic threats not present in either country.

Both countries share information and have over 20 years built strong trust and confidence in each other systems, while maintaining trade. This has been most recently demonstrated with fruit fly outbreaks in Tasmania AU, fruit fly detections in Auckland NZ, and citrus canker in Northern Territory.

In 2007, NZ provided assistance to Australia during its Equine Influenza outbreak, sending vets, epidemiologists and lab staff to help eradicate the disease following activation of a bilateral animal health agreement. Australia provided a significant number of epidemiologists and laboratory personnel to assist NZ with the M. bovis response in 2017.

Last reviewed: 11 November 2019
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