Communique - PHC45

The Plant Health Committee (PHC) held its forty-fifth meeting in Perth. This location provided an opportunity for the Committee to visit the WAFEX flower export establishment and the DAFWA Sterile Insect Technique Fruit Fly Facility, in addition to having a presentation from the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre.

The key issues for discussion at the meeting related to:

  • the continuation of reform of the interstate trading system through consideration of a national trade framework and its application to area freedom certification
  • the importance of a national approach to biosecurity planning, pest risk analysis and pest prioritisation to provide a solid foundation for national biosecurity activities and to support sharing of effort and clarifying responsibilities
  • emergency preparedness and response arrangements for a number of pests, including Karnal bunt, green snail and black Sigatoka, and for pests in the Torres Strait
  • consideration of the most effective strategies to facilitate end-user uptake of research outcomes and ensure researchers that identify new potential plant pests report their detections in a timely manner.

Specific issues considered by the Committee at the meeting are detailed below.

National Plant Biosecurity Strategy

The Committee welcomed the initiative of Plant Health Australia in reviewing the National Plant Biosecurity Strategy and discussed the approach proposed to develop an implementation plan for the Strategy that can be used to guide national activity across industry and governments into the future.

Reform of trade processes

The Committee agreed to a national trade framework as a conceptual model to guide and focus efforts to harmonise and streamline interstate and export trade arrangements. The Committee discussed application of the framework to area freedom certification and endorsed guidelines to support national consistency in area freedom claims. Linked to this, the Committee endorsed a General Surveillance Framework that defines the evidence required to support claims of pest absence. The General Surveillance Framework will be used to inform stakeholders of the information required to be collected to support market access.

The Committee also discussed an Australian Government initiative to develop export strategy plans for horticulture commodity groups and agreed to participate in the process to validate the information contained in those plans.

National approaches to planning, prioritisation and risk analysis

The Committee discussed national approaches to a number of key areas of biosecurity. A revised approach to the development of Industry Biosecurity Plans was considered. The approach proposes to incorporate trade and market access requirements and includes development of an implementation plan with actions and timeframes assigned to respective parties. This will provide a clear basis for shared biosecurity responsibility between governments and industry groups and across the supply chain.

The Committee agreed to progress further work in relation to:

  • future collaborative work between jurisdictions in the application of pest risk analysis;
  • pest prioritisation to guide activity to ensure the best return on investment and that resources are focused on the highest priorities; and
  • options to better share data and intelligence to support national decision making and targeting surveillance to high risk areas.

Emergency Gap Analysis: Karnal bunt as a case study

The Committee agreed on key national issues to be addressed relating to preparedness for an incursion of Karnal bunt disease of wheat. The Committee endorsed the formation of a Working Group on Emergency Gap Analysis to address these issues and identify gaps in general policy issues relating to emergency plant pests.

Future management of green snail, Cantareus apertus

The Committee considered the current regulatory controls, market access conditions and future options for managing green snail in Victoria and recommended that Victoria proceed with containment with property-based restrictions if there is strong support from industry whilst further risk analysis is undertaken to determine if there is any basis for deregulation in the long term.

Potato cyst nematode

The Committee noted that South Australia and Western Australia are engaged in bilateral discussions regarding movement conditions for potatoes in relation to potato cyst nematode (PCN) and agreed that the requirement for PCN testing for seed potatoes, as agreed under the Risk Based Model for PCN, does not apply where there is recognised area freedom and ongoing maintenance arrangements for PCN.

Pest management in the Torres Strait

The Committee considered the complexities of managing plant pests in Torres Strait and endorsed the development of a handbook to assist emergency response decision-making processes. The Committee were also updated on the progress to transition the 'Long-term Containment Strategy for Exotic Fruit Flies in Torres Strait 'to the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed, and endorsed the 'Threat specific contingency plan for black Sigatoka on Torres Strait Islands and Cape York Peninsula' for use should black Sigatoka be detected outside its known location on Torres Strait Islands or Cape York Peninsula.

National minimum data set to support the national situation report for Emergency Plant Pests

The Committee endorsed a National Minimum Data Set (NMDS) for a plant pest emergency response. The use of the NMDS by all jurisdictions will ensure that the information collected by individual jurisdictions for inclusion in a national situation report for a plant pest emergency is provided in a consistent format.

Model for determining appropriate pest management

The Committee endorsed the model for managing pests with ambiguous pest status or uncertainty in justification for response. This model will be used when necessary to guide considerations on appropriate management/response actions to a particular pest.

Implementation of the National Surveillance and Diagnostic Framework

The Committee agreed to the implementation of the National Surveillance and Diagnostic Framework developed under the Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity and considered guidance material to support this. This will be a key focus for the Committee over the coming year.

Linked to this was discussion on professional development training provided through the National Plant Biosecurity Diagnostic Network. This training is conducted to meet identified skills gaps and the Committee agreed to continue to support future professional development for jurisdictional staff through this mechanism.

Implementation of the National Framework for the Management of Established Pests and Diseases of National Significance

The Committee discussed the draft National Framework for the Management of Established Pests and Diseases of National Significance prepared by the National Biosecurity Committee for consultation purposes. It was noted that industry groups are currently being consulted on this initiative and the possible opportunities provided by having such a framework. The Committee’s views on possible strategies for implementation in the plant biosecurity sector were sought.

PBCRC, end user engagement and priorities for investment

The Committee agreed that, to ensure greater engagement and maximise potential impact from agency investment in the Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre, a combination of ‘project buddies’ and knowledge broker will be implemented. The Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre will work with relevant officers to implement this approach.

Guidance for publishing researchers and their organisations

The Committee agreed to communication material to raise awareness of timely reporting by research organisations of detections of potential plant pests. This material will complement existing reporting hotlines and information available electronically.

Next meeting

The next in-person meeting of PHC is scheduled for 12-14 November 2014.

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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