Significant events in the history of NAQs

​Before NAQS


  • Quarantine Act 1908 receives royal assent, providing a national approach to quarantine for the first time after State Premiers agree to hand over administration of quarantine to the Commonwealth in 1906.


  • The Torres Strait Treaty, an agreement between Australia and the Independent State of Papua New Guinea (PNG), is signed at Papua New Guinea House in Sydney on the 18th of December.


  • The Torres Strait Treaty takes effect in February, defining the two main boundaries – the Seabed Jurisdiction Line and the Fisheries Jurisdiction Lines – as well as a ‘protected zone’ between Australia and Papua New Guinea.


  • A major review of quarantine in Australia is conducted by a committee headed by Professor David Lindsay. An interim report is published by the Quarantine Review Committee, detailing the unique problems associated with Australia’s northern coastline and its proximity to Papua New Guinea and the Torres Strait islands.


  • The report into Aerial Littoral Surveillance from the 1987 Lindsay review of quarantine in Australia is published by the Department of Primary Industries and Energy and considered by Cabinet. As a result of the Lindsay review the government commits to establish a program to deal with the unique risks associated with Australia’s northern coastline.

NAQS established 1989


  • Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy (NAQS) is established. The program of activity receives funding from the Federal Government and is initially operated by the Queensland, Western Australian and Northern Territory governments.
  • The first NAQS coordinator, Colin Fish, is appointed and remains in the role until 1994.
  • The then-Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (now Department of Agriculture) begins to conduct surveys in Papua New Guinea, Irian Jaya, and the easternmost province of Indonesia adjacent to PNG.
  • NAQS’s first field officers are appointed: Torres Strait officers Ron Enosa and Ted Mosby (later the first Anglican Bishop of the Torres Strait). These appointments are quickly followed by the appointment of Bamaga officer, Jackson Sailor.
  • Kevin Hyde, NAQS’s first plant pathologist, is appointed in Queensland. 


  • NAQS appoints its first veterinarian officers, John Curran (WA), and Andrew von Berky (QLD).
  • Judy Grimshaw is appointed as NAQS’s first entomologist, closely followed by Barbara Waterhouse, as NAQS’s first botanist. Both are based in Queensland.
  • Spiralling whitefly observed in Western Province (of PNG) coastal villages in November. 


  • Spiralling whitefly is detected on Boigu Island during a NAQS plant health survey. It subsequently spread to most inhabited Torres Strait Islands but its impacts were mitigated by a biological control program using a parasitic wasp.


  • Sampling starts for migratory birds for target diseases such as Newcastle disease, avian influenza and Japanese encephalitis.


  • The Asian honey bee (Apis cerana) is detected in Torres Strait for the first time and becomes established on Boigu, Saibai, and Dauan Islands. The eradication of this pest is considered unfeasible because of the proximity of these islands to PNG.
  • In March, exotic papaya fruit fly, Bactrocera papayae, is trapped on Boigu, Dauan, Saibai and Darnley islands in Torres Strait, sparking an intensive collaborative eradication program.


  • Siam weed is detected at Bingil Bay, north Queensland, in July 1994.


  • An independent scientific review of NAQS, chaired by Professor Malcolm Nairn, is commissioned by the department. The report, The Nairn-Muirhead Review, confirms the value of NAQS’s contribution to biosecurity in northern Australia and leads to an increase in NAQS program activities and resourcing.
  • A staged transition of responsibility for NAQS service delivery begins, moving from State/Territory authorities to the Commonwealth.
  • Spiralling whitefly is detected at Seisia near the tip of Cape York Peninsula, far north Queensland, during a NAQS plant health survey in January.
  • An outbreak of papaya fruit fly near Cairns is confirmed. NAQS provides scientific support in the early stages of the outbreak reducing the extent of the incursion. The detection triggered a successful eradication program that takes four years and costs $33 million.


  • An outbreak of black Sigatoka disease of bananas in Weipa triggers a successful eradication program.
  • Establishment of the Torres Strait Fruit Fly Technical Advisory Panel (TAP) incorporating representatives of NAQS, the Qld Department of Primary Industries (QDPI) and external specialists during June. The TAP focuses on developing and implementing a “Long Term Containment Strategy for Fruit Flies in Torres Strait”.


  • NAQS survey activities detect spiralling whitefly and mango leafhopper at Weipa in July. The detection results in the establishment of the Coen Information Centre on the only road leading into and out of Cape York to limit southward vehicular movement of pests.


  • Black Sigatoka is detected at Bamaga during a NAQS survey triggering a successful QDPI eradication program.
  • The presence of a nest of Asian honeybees is confirmed in Darwin and a successful surveillance and eradication program is subsequently developed during June.
  • Sentinel pigs to identify Japanese encephalitis are established in July and offshore monitoring for other diseases commences.
  • A member of the public notifies NAQS of a potential quarantine risk. This report leads to the detection of the target weed Mikania micrantha at Mission Beach (outside the NAQS zone) and triggers a national eradication program.


  • The containment strategy for exotic fruit flies in the Torres Strait is modified to include pre-emptive male spraying on Boigu, Dauan, Saibai and Darnley. This action effectively eradicates papaya fruit fly each year from the top western islands, where it had been established since 1993.


  • An Aboriginal Communications Strategy is enacted leading to the employment of a full time Aboriginal Liaison Officer in Darwin and an undertaking to develop formal relationships with Land Councils.


  • NAQS botanist identifies target weed Limnocharis flava (yellow burrhead) in Cairns in May, triggering a nationally-funded eradication program.
  • NAQS plant pathologist detects target pathogen grape vine rust in suburban Darwin during July. An eradication program is implemented and in July 2007 the NT is declared free of this plant pest.


  • The Australian Government provides specific funding to NAQS to support regular surveys for highly pathogenic strains of avian influenza in bird populations across the northern coastal areas of Australia.
  • Target weed Croton hirtus is identified at Scherger RAAF base during a NAQS survey, triggering a localised containment and eradication program funded by the Department of Defence.


  • Mango gall midge is detected by NAQS on Darnley Island in May. The NAQS program is tasked with implementing enhanced surveillance and monitoring measures in relation to the biosecurity risks posed by foreign fishing vessel activity in northern Australia. This work is supported by increased engagement with Indigenous communities on biosecurity support measures, and a targeted communications campaign to raise biosecurity awareness amongst remote coastal communities. 


  • Vegetable leaf miner is detected by NAQS on Warraber Island. Later detections occur on Yorke and Mabuiag (2010).


  • NAQS celebrates 21 years of continuous service in northern Australia.


  • Mealybug pests, Planococcus lilacinus and Pseudococcus jackbeardsleyi are detected on a number of Torres Strait islands. NAQS participates in the national Scientific Advisory Panel to analyse the significance of these detections


  • NAQS plant pathologists use novel diagnostic methods to detect a target virus of peanuts in Papua New Guinea. This detection was particularly significant because the virus was infecting an alternate host. This has important implications for plant surveillance.


  • Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy—25 years of protecting Australia published to commemorate the 25th anniversary of NAQS. The book chronicles the memories of 31 current and former NAQS staff. It provides a fascinating snapshot of the work the programme conducts, with a vivid array of images of the beautiful but often challenging countryside in which our officers work.
Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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