Moving goods from Torres Strait

​The Torres Strait islands provide a potential pathway for the movement of exotic pests, weeds and diseases present in countries very close to Australia. For context, a distance of only 3.6 km separates the outer Torres Strait Island of Saibai and the mainland of Papua New Guinea (PNG).

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources applies biosecurity controls to manage the biosecurity risk to Australia’s plant, animal, human health and the environment posed by goods moving from the Torres Strait to the mainland. For example, some exotic pests make seasonal incursions into Torres Strait. Other pests move regularly into the island chain by natural means, such as wind or tide movements. Torres Strait proves no barrier to migrating birds or flying insects, such as exotic fruit fly species, or insect vectors that can carry diseases.

The department’s application of biosecurity powers aims to minimise the biosecurity risk in line with Australia’s Appropriate Level of Protection (ALOP).

Under the Commonwealth Biosecurity Act, there are no restrictions on movements from the Australian mainland to the Torres Strait. Other state or local government restrictions may apply.

Map of the Torres Strait biosecurity zones
Map of Torres Strait protected and special quarantine zones

The Torres Strait is divided into two zones with particular biosecurity conditions that apply to movement of goods between each zone.
Moving goods from PNG to the Torres Strait Protected Zone

The Torres Strait Treaty 1985 allows traditional movement of people and trade between the 13 PNG treaty villages and the Torres Strait islands within the Protected Zone. The Biosecurity Act 2015 manages the biosecurity risk by restricting the movement of goods.
Traditional vessels and goods from the PNG are exempt from standard pre-arrival reporting and first point of entry requirements when travelling between PNG and the Torres Strait Protected Zone. However, goods and vessels are still inspected to ensure compliance with biosecurity regulations.

Moving goods from the Torres Strait Protected Zone and permanent biosecurity monitoring zone to the mainland

Torres Strait has special biosecurity requirements that prohibit the southward movement of the following products between the Torres Strait Protected Zone to the Torres Strait permanent biosecurity monitoring zone, and any Torres Strait Island to mainland Australia.

  • untreated hides or skins or other animal products
  • meat or dairy products (excluding canned items)
  • fresh fruit and vegetables
  • live animals, including insects
  • live plants, including cuttings, seedlings or plant products
  • poultry products, including eggs or feathers with skin still attached
  • soil.

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These goods can only be moved with a permit from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

Moving goods, machinery and vehicles from the Torres Strait Protected Zone or the Torres Strait permanent biosecurity monitoring zone

If you are moving machinery, vehicles or other goods south from the Torres Strait Protected Zone into the Torres Strait permanent biosecurity monitoring zone, or from either zone to mainland Australia, please ensure the following:

  • ensure your goods are free from soil or any plant or animal material
  • remove potential water reservoirs, including buckets and other containers – these can provide a potential breeding site for exotic mosquitoes than can carry disease, and
  • arrange for a biosecurity officer to inspect your goods, machinery or vehicle before it leaves the island. If there is no officer present at the point of departure, contact Thursday Island office and advise them of your departure details.

Moving restricted items from the Torres Strait Protected Zone or the Torres Strait permanent biosecurity monitoring zone

Start with the flow chart below to see what you need to do if you want to move one or more of these restricted items.
Once you have identified what you need to do please check the text below the flow chart for further details.

For more information on the requirements for yachts and other vessels seven metres or longer moving through the Torres Strait, please go to Shipping and yachting in Torres Strait.

Moving Torres Strait biosecurity zone flowchart 

What do you want to move?

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Live animals (cats and dogs only)

Cats and dogs require a permit to move between the Torres Strait Protected Zone to the Torres Strait permanent biosecurity monitoring zone and from either of these zones to mainland Australia.

The owner of the cat or dog must:

  • complete and submit an application for permit to move goods10 days prior to departure. When applying for a permit, the owner must provide details of the animal’s origin and health
  • treat the dog/cat for fleas and ticks prior to inspection (within 5 days of the intended movement)
  • arrange an appointment for the dog/cat to be inspected by a biosecurity officer on the island of departure within 5 daysof departure.

Live animals (vertebrates, excluding cats and dogs)

All live animals, except live fish, require a permit to move between the Torres Strait Protected Zone to the Torres Strait permanent biosecurity monitoring zone and from either of these zones to mainland Australia.

The owner of an animal (such as birds, reptiles, guinea pigs), should:

  • complete and submit an application for permit to move goods10 days prior to departure
  • arrange an appointment for the animal to be inspected by a biosecurity officer on the island of departure within 5 days of departure.

Live fish (excluding those from PNG)

Live fish do not require a movement permit but, prior to movement, both the fish and any packaging must be inspected by a biosecurity officer for biosecurity risk material (such as plant material).

Note: this does not apply to live fish from PNG. For live fish from PNG refer to the Biosecurity Import Conditions system (BICON).

Live insects (specimens and products)

The southward movement of live insects (including viable insect products) from the Torres Strait Protected Zone to the Torres Strait permanent biosecurity monitoring zone or from either of these zones to mainland Australia is restricted (that is prohibited without a permit). A permit to move goods may be issued on a case by case basis if the biosecurity risk(s) can be appropriately managed.

An application for permit to move goods must be completed and lodged at least 10 days prior to departure.

Dead animals (animal products and specimens)

The southward movement of all animals and animal products from the Torres Strait Protected Zone to the Torres Strait permanent biosecurity monitoring zone or from either of these zones to mainland Australia is restricted (that is prohibited without a permit). This restriction applies to scientific specimens and any material of animal origin. Some goods may be moved without a permit, as long as they are presented for inspection by a biosecurity officer prior to movement and are clean and free of other biosecurity risk material.

An application for permit to move goods must be completed and lodged at least 10 days prior to departure.

Dead insects (specimens and products)

Dead insects and non-viable insect products do not require a movement permit but, prior to movement, both the insects and any packaging associated with them must be inspected by a biosecurity officer to ensure that the specimens are dead and free of other biosecurity risk material (such as plant material).

Dead bees of the genus Apis do not require a movement permit if preserved in 70 per cent ethanol, 10 per cent formalin or a minimum of 2 per cent gluteraldehyde. Prior to movement, both the bees and any packaging associated with them must be inspected by a biosecurity officer to ensure that the specimens are dead, preserved appropriately and free of other biosecurity risk material (such as plant material).

Live plants and plant material

The southward movement of plant material from the Torres Strait Protected Zone to the Torres Strait permanent biosecurity monitoring zone or from either of these zones to mainland Australia is restricted (that is prohibited without a permit). Permits will be issued on a case by case basis if the biosecurity risk(s) can be appropriately managed.

An application for permit to move goods (such as plant, animal and soil products) from Torres Strait must be completed and lodged at least 10 days prior to departure.

Dead plants (plant products and herbarium specimens)

The southward movement of dead plants and herbarium material from the Torres Strait Protected Zone to the Torres Strait permanent biosecurity monitoring zone or from either of these zones to mainland Australia requires a permit and, where possible, treatment in Torres Strait prior to movement.

An application for permit to move goods (such as plant, animal and soil products) from Torres Strait must be completed and lodged at least 10 days prior to departure.

Soil samples

The removal of soil from the Torres Strait Protected Zone to the Torres Strait permanent biosecurity monitoring zone or from either of those zones to mainland Australia is restricted (that is prohibited without a permit). Soil samples that have been granted a permit can only be moved to a Torres Strait Approved Treatment Facility; for example soil laboratory.

An application for permit to move goods (such as plant, animal and soil products) from Torres Strait must be completed and lodged at least 10 days prior to departure.

All approved permits for soil samples are for one consignment only.

Further information

Applications for permits will be accepted by email or hard copy. To submit an application for a permit, or if you have any questions please contact your local island biosecurity officer or one of our offices listed below.

Office

Email

Phone

Thursday Island, Torres Strait

NAQS

07 4212 0185

Horn Island, Torres Strait

NAQS

07 4069 1310

Cairns

NAQS

07 4241 7800

Bamaga

NAQS

07 4241 7951