Plant Health

Australia is fortunate to be free from many of the damaging plant pests that occur in other countries.

This freedom helps our producers to access local and overseas markets, protects our unique environment, and supports a healthy way of life for all Australians.

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

Working together to protect Australia’s plant health

Under national arrangements for plant health we lead and coordinate activities that aim to maintain and grow Australia’s role in international trade, and protect the nation’s industries, environment and community from the harmful effects of plant pests, weeds and bee pests and diseases.

Collaboration with local and international governments, Plant Health Australia, peak industry bodies, producers, environmental groups, researchers, and community members underpins our approach to protecting Australia’s favourable plant health status.

Through the Australian Chief Plant Protection Officer (ACPPO) we consult on domestic and international plant health activities, with cooperation at the core of our work to carry out plant health surveillance and diagnostics, allow plant imports and support plant exports, and manage emergency preparedness and response arrangements.

Plant health surveillance and diagnostics

Plant health surveillance (also known as biosecurity surveillance or crop monitoring) involves checking for signs of plant pests and diseases, recording the results and reporting the findings.  

It is critical to both protecting Australia from the effects of harmful plant pests and diseases, and supporting access to local and domestic markets.  Diagnostics, the ability to accurately identify a plant pest, including species not known to be present in Australia, is an important part of this work. 

We conduct surveillance activities across the biosecurity continuum—pre-border (offshore or international), at the border, and post-border (within Australia and our External Territories).

International or pre-border surveillance and diagnostic activities aim to provide early warning of new or exotic pests and mitigate risks associated with plant pests at risk of entering Australia.

Pre-border surveillance activities, conducted in collaboration with governments in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste, provide an important ‘early warning’ of new pests or diseases in our region, complementing the work of our Northern Australian Quarantine Strategy (NAQS) staff in protecting the Torres Strait and our northern coastline.

We also work to build surveillance and diagnostic capacity amongst our near neighbours and across the globe, again to better prevent the risk of pests reaching Australia’s border.

Border surveillance sees checks made of incoming cargo, mail and passengers at airports, seaports and international mail centres, as well as surrounding areas. ‘Hitchhiker’ pests such as the brown marmorated stink bug are known to contaminate imported cars and other incoming cargo, and are a particular focus for our border surveillance activities.

Post-border or onshore surveillance sees a significant number of surveys carried out within Australia with two key aims in mind: to raise the alarm of any new incursion or outbreak early (before it spreads too far to be eradicated), and to gather the ‘evidence of absence’ data needed to show our overseas trading partners that Australia is free from high risk pests of particular concern.

Surveillance is also part of national emergency preparedness and response arrangements, as it is important to know just how a far a pest has spread, and to determine whether it has become too established to be eradicated.

With coordination from Plant Health Australia, surveillance and diagnostics professionals across Australia and New Zealand work together through the Plant Surveillance Network Asia Pacific and the National Plant Biosecurity Diagnostic Network.

Supporting exports

With two-thirds of Australia’s agricultural production sent overseas we play a key role in supporting the ability of our horticulture, grains and forest industries to maintain and grow their access to overseas markets.

We provide export inspection and certification services for plants and plant products, with this work underpinned by the collection of surveillance data which provides assurance of our freedom from pests and diseases to overseas countries.

We also coordinate Australia’s contribution to international plant health activities, representing the interests of our industries in negotiations on international plant health agreements that seek to allow countries to trade while preventing the global spread of plant pests and diseases.

With producers and governments needing to meet these requirements in regard to market access and plant health it is important that Australia maintains strong representation in international plant health forums.

We encourage public consultation on draft International and Regional Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPMs & RSPMs) and other matters of international plant health affecting Australia’s agricultural industries.

To get involved in international plant health activities, contact the Australian Chief Plant Protection Office at ACCPO@agriculture.gov.au

Managing imports

Safely allowing the import of plants and plant products while supporting the ability of our horticulture, grains and forest industries to export to overseas markets is a critical balancing act for Australia’s plant health, one that involves collaboration between governments, growers, peak industry groups and community members.

Biosecurity risk analyses allow Australia to meet its international obligations as an active trading nation. These analyses consider the risk that could be associated with an imported plant or plant product, and ways that the risk could be managed if it is permitted to enter Australia.  Conditions for the entry of imports are then set out in the department’s Biosecurity import conditions database (BICON).

To receive regular updates on plant biosecurity topics, join the department’s stakeholder register.

Emergency preparedness and response

Although Australia is free of many plant pests and diseases found elsewhere in the world we cannot afford to be complacent.

We encourage all Australians to understand why Biosecurity Matters, and report anything unusual

We work closely with industry groups, governments and community members on preparedness for potential threats, including arrangements to enhance our capacity 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 and arrangements.

Australians are also encouraged to avoid spreading existing pests, diseases and weeds from one part of the country to another. The Australian Interstate Quarantine website provides advice on biosecurity zones and legally binding restrictions for commercial travellers and holidaymakers alike.

Working with the Australian Chief Plant Protection Officer

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.

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

For more information on working to protect plant health in Australia contact the Australian Chief Plant Protection Office at ACCPO@agriculture.gov.au.


Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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