Biosecurity Matters, Issue 5, 2016

​​​​Biosecurity Matters

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Keep out Australia's top plant pests

An industry participantUnusual symptoms indicating disease in plants.

Crippled plant industries, trade suspensions and a devastated environment—Australia’s National Priority Plant Pests carry a high potential for harm.

Everyone from importers, farmers, home gardeners, retailers, and travellers need to know what can come into Australia, get an idea of what these pests look like, and what to do if any exotic plant pests find their way here.

Australian Chief Plant Protection Officer, Dr Kim Ritman, said these exotic and unwanted plant pests pose a significant risk to our $27.9 billion broadacre and horticulture crop industries and $2 billion forestry industry.

“The risks these pests pose are real and are growing. Number one on our Top 40 National Priority Plant Pests is Xylella fastidiosa, which is currently destroying thousand-year-old olive tree groves in Italy,” Dr Ritman said.

“A recent report outlined that if Australia had an incursion of Xylella in an iconic Australian wine growing region such as the Barossa Valley or the Hunter Valley, it could cost up to $4.2 billion in losses over 19 years.

Continue reading about Australia's top plant pests

“These 40 most unwanted pests are not yet present or widely established in Australia and we want to keep it that way.”

The National Priority Plant Pests (2016) were recently endorsed by the Plant Health Committee, Australia’s national committee for plant biosecurity. The 2016 priority pests were identified through a national expert elicitation process, which considered economic, social and environment threats the pests pose to Australia. These pests will be the focus and priority for government, including surveillance, research, and community awareness activities.

If you see something that could have entered Australia with imported goods or in the mail, report it via the See Secure Report Hotline, 1800 798 636.

If you suspect you have found an exotic or an unusual pest or disease on your property report it via the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline, 1800 084 881.

Last chance to unearth a biosecurity champion

A department officer discusses MARS with a Maersk chief officer

Trevor Weatherhead (centre) receiving the David Banks Biosecurity Lifetime Achievement Award 2016 with Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and Ms Lyn O’Connell.

With the Olympics over, it’s time to put the spotlight on Australia’s biosecurity champions – those who have gone the extra mile to protect Australia from introduced pests and diseases.

Nominations for the 2017 Australian Biosecurity Awards are open until Monday 31 October. We are looking for outstanding nominees in three categories:

  • Australian Biosecurity Award – Industry
  • Australian Biosecurity Award – Government
  • David Banks Biosecurity Lifetime Achievement Award

One of last year’s winners, Trevor Weatherhead, was celebrated for 30 years of work with the Australian beekeeping industry, where his efforts helped Australia remain one of the last regions on the planet free of the destructive Varroa mite.

This mite features in the top 40 plant pests threatening Australia – read more about these in this issue of Biosecurity Matters.

The awards recognise those who have introduced a biosecurity reform, raised awareness, managed a disease outbreak or pest incursion or worked collaboratively with the department to support and promote Australia’s biosecurity.

Winners will be announced at the ABARES Outlook Conference dinner in Canberra on 7 March 2017.

For more information, including the nomination form, visit Australian Biosecurity Awards

Biosecurity boost to Norfolk Island

Norfolk-based biosecurity officers (L-R) Dean FitzPatrick, Darren Mietzel and Neil Tavener.

Australia’s biosecurity laws and services have been extended to Norfolk Island since July.

To maintain the island’s unique status, goods arriving on Norfolk will be subject to biosecurity control, even if from Australia.

Norfolk-based biosecurity officer Darren Mietzel and detector dog Dawson are the most obvious “faces” of the department on the island. They have been joined by two locals who previously worked for the Norfolk Island quarantine service, bringing significant knowledge about the island and its environment. The department plans to engage more residents to further boost biosecurity management.

“Norfolk Island has a different pest and disease status to the mainland, and the work we do here will be focussing on the specific threats to this unique environment,” Mr Mietzel said.

The island has always had strict rules for the importation of fresh produce, and this will continue.

“An import permit is required for anyone wanting to bring in a wide range of goods, including fresh produce, whether the goods are from Australia or another country,” Mr Mietzel said.

Continue reading about boost to Norfolk Island

The department is currently assessing the risk and import conditions required for frequently imported goods such as stockfeed, potting mix and seeds.

Departmental officers have been meeting with business people and primary producers on Norfolk Island to assist them in operating under the new requirements.

The department’s role on the island is to manage import conditions, permit requirements, and targeted inspection at the border.

It is also ensuring travellers to the popular tourist destination, who arrive by air and cruise ships, are compliant with the new biosecurity laws that will help to keep Norfolk such a tourist drawcard by protecting its unique environment.

During consultations with local farmers in September, biosecurity officers explained the need to plan ahead when importing agricultural supplies. An import permit application must be submitted and a risk assessment undertaken by the department’s scientists before some goods will be allowed onto the island.

Beefing up pest traps at the border

Departmental officers placing insect trap.

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources will be stepping up its field surveillance activities from November to better intercept exotic pests and diseases at the border before they establish in Australia.

If you are a biosecurity industry participant, you may soon be contacted by the department about us placing and managing pest traps in your area or our biosecurity officers undertaking field surveillance activities, such as taking samples of insects and weeds.

If we find anything unusual, we will work with you to contain the pest and avoid any costly clean ups down the track.

If you see an insect, animal or weed that could have entered Australia by hitchhiking on imported goods from overseas, report what you have found to the department by completing the online form or calling the See. Secure. Report. Hotline, 1800 798 636.

This extra surveillance is part of the department’s additional powers introduced through the Biosecurity Act 2015.

Read more about the department’s strengthened approach to biosecurity surveillance at Australia’s borders.

Border finds - Australia's biosecurity challenge leaves no survivors

This large wooden plaque is assumed to be from the set of Australian Survivor.

Some unexpected hitchhikers certainly didn’t outwit our vigilant biosecurity officers when they were detected inside a parcel at the Sydney Gateway Facility (airport mail centre).

The parcel, which contained a large wooden plaque assumed to be from the set of the popular television show Australian Survivor, was declared upon arrival from Samoa.

The plaque was X-rayed and found to be infested with borers, with active borer holes also detected by biosecurity officers on its outside surface.

Upon detection, the plaque was fumigated before being released to the client.

Australia enjoys freedom from many of the world’s most damaging pests and diseases. There are many exotic pests and insects that could hitch a ride to Australia in timber, bamboo, wooden related products and packaging.

Even products that appear outwardly to be clean may harbour biosecurity risks because many timber pests occur within wood and can be very difficult to detect in their egg or larval stage. If these pests establish in Australia they could have a detrimental impact on our agriculture and forestry industries, natural environment and economy.

If you suspect anything unusual in imported timber and wooden related products, report a biosecurity concern online or call the See.Secure.Report. Hotline on 1800 798 636.

See the latest Import industry advice notices or Export industry and market access notices.
Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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