Darwin passengers make a meal of biosecurity

The increasing number of biosecurity contraband items seized at Darwin International Airport in 2016 poses a risk that should concern all territorians.

Head of biosecurity operations at the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Nico Padovan, said that every seized item posed a risk to Australia’s way of life.

“The 4 per cent increase in the number of items seized at Darwin International Airport might sound modest, but it comes on the back of relatively steady passenger numbers—which rose only 1.2 per cent over the same period,” Mr Padovan said.

“That means more people are arriving, and on average they’re bringing more contraband with them.

“Every intercepted item poses a risk not just to the Northern Territory, but the whole of Australia.

“We need seizure numbers to fall if we’re to safeguard our community, environment, agricultural industries and economy.

“More than 560 meat products were confiscated in 2016—by far the largest number of items of any one type seized at Darwin Airport last year. 

“Foot and mouth disease, which isn’t present in Australia, could be brought here by a passenger bringing in a meat product.

“This highly contagious animal disease would devastate livestock industries in the NT and across the nation if it were to become established—potentially costing Australia more than $50 billion over 10 years.

“As Australia’s northern-most international airport, the Darwin International Airport serves as a vital gateway to the nation.

“Foot and mouth disease affects many of our nearest neighbours.

“It is especially important that travellers landing at Darwin International Airport observe to Australia’s biosecurity protocols.”

Items seized at Darwin International Airport in 2016 included:

  • 562 items of meat, a 5 per cent increase compared to 2015
  • 404 plant products and live plant material, a 18 per cent increase compared to 2015
  • 334 items of contaminated footwear, goods or packaging, a 5 per cent increase compared to 2015
  • 297 seed products, a 24 per cent increase compared to 2015
  • 236 vegetable and vegetable products, a 20 per cent increase compared to 2015

“Darwin isn’t the only airport to have increased seizures in 2016. We seized 273,000 items of biosecurity concern across Australia’s international airports in 2016, up by more than 6 per cent from 2015,” Mr Padovan said.

“Biosecurity officers are using the best science, analysis and intelligence available and actively target deliberate concealment and non-compliance with Australia’s biosecurity laws.

“The onus is on passengers to do the right thing—think about what is being packed and if unsure, check agriculture.gov.au, fill out the Incoming Passenger Cards correctly, declare everything honestly and leave plane food on the plane.

“The strict controls are in place for a reason. They are critical to protecting not only our human health, but also agricultural industries, environment and economy.

“All passengers entering Australia need to think about the risk they’re posing to Australia when they pack their bags.”

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

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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