The first Environmental Biosecurity Roundtable for 2018 was held in Canberra on 3 May.
The event was hosted by the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR) and the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy (DoEE).
Item 2 | Update – Matthew Koval, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
Mr Koval gave an overview of the increasing and significant challenges in biosecurity and the importance of working together to strengthen the biosecurity system.
Mr Koval highlighted recent and ongoing work of the department including:
- The inaugural Biosecurity Innovation Exchange (held in March 2018).
- Supporting the delivery of a shared national response to recommendations from the Priorities for Australia’s Biosecurity System review report including:
- developing a National Biosecurity Statement
- drafting a revised Inter Governmental Agreement on Biosecurity (IGAB) and priority reform areas for Agricultural Ministers’ consideration
- developing a national priority list for environmental pests and diseases
- finalising emergency response deeds for aquatic animals and exotic production weeds
- establishing an Industry and Community Reference Group to the National Biosecurity Committee
- setting national priorities for biosecurity research and development.
- delivering two major components of the second phase of the $1.1 billion National Landcare Program (NLP), commencing in 1 July 2018—Regional Land Partnerships and Smart Farms.
- delivering the
Biosecurity Matters community website, including ‘Don’t be a Jeff’—a suite of short animated videos.
- administering the National Environmental Biosecurity Response Agreement (NEBRA).
Item 3 | Update – Veronica Blazely & Anthea Brecknell, Department of the Environment and Energy
Ms Blazely highlighted the Department of the Environment and Energy’s contribution to national biosecurity policy through its involvement in committees such as the National Biosecurity Committee and its subcommittees and expert groups. Ms Blazely also noted the department’s input into reviews such as the Priorities for Australia’s Biosecurity System report, the NEBRA review and national plans such as the Emergency Marine Pest Plan.
Ms Blazely summarised the department’s recent work in relation to environmental biosecurity, including:
- the assessment of new animal species to be added to the Live Import List under the
Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). This included six species of oyster for research, cichlid species for commercial trade and yellow anaconda for exhibition by zoos
- ongoing work to update policy guidance in relation to hybrid animals such as ‘designer’ canines and felines and
- administration of threat abatement plans under the EPBC Act.
Ms Blazely also introduced the work of the Office of the Threatened Species Commissioner, led by Dr Sally Box, which is responsible for bringing a national focus to conservation efforts through collaboration with the Threatened Species Scientific Committee, community and the non-profit sector, industry, government and scientists.
Anthea Brecknell spoke about myrtle rust, which continues to be a difficult pathogen to manage. There are current research programs assessing the widespread nature of the disease which has led to the development of a draft action plan. Ms Brecknell emphasised that ongoing efforts from all states and territories, industry and Indigenous land managers are crucial to ensuring best biosecurity practice for the management of myrtle rust.
Item 4 | Update – Bruce Christie, Environment and Invasives Committee
Dr Bruce Christie introduced the Environment and Invasives Committee (EIC) and provided an overview of their responsibilities and priority tasks. The EIC replaces the Invasive Plants and Animals Committee and was formed in response to the Priorities for Australia’s Biosecurity System report, which recommended a greater focus on environmental biosecurity. Mr Christie provided copies of the EIC terms of reference and provide an overview of the committee.
In 2018-19 the committee will be progressing a wide range of priorities including:
- implementation of the National Invasive Ant Biosecurity Plan, the National Environment and Community Biosecurity RD&E Strategy, the Australian Pest Animal Strategy and the Australian Weeds Strategy
- providing policy advice on the National Carp Control Plan and the National Environmental Biosecurity Response Agreement to the respective work groups
- development of a priority environmental pest and disease list, a revised Weeds of National Significance list and an invasive exotic crayfish threat assessment and management policy
- updating the Australian List of Threat Categories of Non-Indigenous Vertebrates, and
- development of an Exotic Production Weeds Incursion Response Agreement and a national invasive species emergency response plan (Invasives Plan)
- to prepare a summary report on the Environmental Biosecurity Stocktake.
Mr Christie invited participants to share their thoughts on priority biosecurity issues and challenges for the environmental sector with the EIC and to make themselves known to the committee for continued engagement.
Item 5 | ‘What’s New’ session
A number of speakers presented updates on areas of interest for roundtable participants.
Dr Pam Whiteley, Wildlife Disease Association Australasian Section, Wildlife Health Victoria
Dr Pam Whiteley spoke about the importance wildlife health, focussing on three important issues:
- wildlife infections can be zoonotic
- infections can spread between wildlife and domestic animals in both directions and create ongoing wildlife reservoirs (chlamydia in koalas may come from sheep and cattle), and
- diseases can be a key threatening processes for biodiversity conservation (possible toxoplasmosis in marsupials from cats).
Dr Whitely commented that federal and state/territory environment agencies have little experience in wildlife health but wildlife disease risk analysis (priorities, mitigation strategies, gaps) and wildlife health management (Prevention, Surveillance and Preparedness, Control-Solutions) expertise can come from collaborations with Wildlife Health Australia and Australian veterinary faculties and universities.
Dr Andrew Peters, Management Committee Member, Wildlife Health Australia
Wildlife disease is a significant emerging threat to biodiversity, human health and agriculture and is of particular importance in the management of threatened species. Dr Peters commented that despite a significant, sustained and continuing increase in wildlife disease research output since 1995 there has not been a corresponding increase in effective solutions for wildlife disease in free-ranging animals. The deployment of solutions even for emerging wildlife diseases of known conservation significance in Australia (e.g. chytridiomycosis) has been exceptionally rare. Additionally, research innovation in the development and testing of an effective national preparedness, surveillance and responsiveness system is lacking and significant gaps in taxonomic, geographic, temporal and ecosystem coverage are known to exist. A solutions-focused collaborative and broad multidisciplinary research strategy incorporating a translational framework, and with good governance and a funding model, is needed to integrate existing and potential research capacity in Australia to develop solutions for priority wildlife disease problems.
Juanita Watters, Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Centre
Ms Watters spoke about how myrtle rust is one of Australia’s most pressing environmental biosecurity issues. Myrtle rust causes significant damage to environments and as a result, a number of native species are at risk of extinction. Myrtle rust was detected in 2010 on the Central Coast of New South Wales, it has now been detected in Tasmania through to the tip of Cape York Peninsula and west to the Tiwi Islands and Darwin. The Plant Biosecurity CRC and the Department of the Environment and Energy’s National Environmental Science Program have collaborated to undertake a review of the environmental impacts of myrtle rust and produce a draft National Action Plan for myrtle rust. The review and draft action plan will be made available on the CRC’s website during June for public consultation until the end of August 2018.
Michael Robinson, Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre
Mr Robinson spoke about a new food-grade silica based technology package by Davren Global that can control a wide range of insects. The package has been developed through the Plant Biosecurity CRC and is now being commercialised. Potential markets include where toxic chemicals are used for insects in food storage (e.g. grains, nuts in both developing and developed countries) and amenity insect pests (for example ants, termites). Initial laboratory based trials show the potential of the package to be used on Red Imported Fire Ant.
Helen Scott-Orr, Inspector-General of Biosecurity (IGB)
Dr Scott-Orr explained that the role of the Inspector-General of Biosecurity (IGB) is to undertake independent reviews on biosecurity and publish findings and actions, based on a work program developed by the IGB and endorsed by the Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources and the Director of Biosecurity under the
Biosecurity Act 2015. The review program for 2018-19 includes a review of Department of Agriculture and Water Resources processes of managing environmental biosecurity risks address high-risk environmental biosecurity concerns. Dr Scott-Orr intends to distribute a discussion paper in July to roundtable participants, as part of this review.
Andrew Cox, Chief Executive Officer, Invasive Species Council
Mr Cox announced that a risk prioritisation of environmental harmful exotic insect pests is being developed jointly with Monash University and the Invasive Species Council. The Invasive Species Council is working with Monash and Murdoch Universities to expand the research to include fungi threats and is looking for funders to support this work. Mr Cox believes that there is a gap in responses to new incursions where NEBRA is not triggered and mentioned smooth newt, Koster’s curse and yellow crazy ants as examples. The Invasive Species Council’s view is that the response by states is often ad hoc and that limited resources are available, despite the potential significance of the outbreaks. Mr Cox spoke of the work of the Queensland government which he said currently undertakes limited action to eradicate yellow crazy ants, except for the large Cairns infestation, despite growing community desire to address yellow crazy ants in Townsville. The Invasive Species Council has been working with Townsville City Council to conduct surveillance and treatment of three outbreaks.
Mr Cox also highlighted the combined Invasive Species Council, New South Wales government and Bushwalking NSW campaign that targets bushwalkers to ‘Keep their gear clean’ to reduce biosecurity risks and spread of pests and diseases, and the NSW government’s planned release the next State of Biosecurity Report prepared by the Biosecurity Advisory Committee in the near future.
Dr Linda Ford, Senior Research Fellow, Charles Darwin University
Dr Linda Ford is leading a joint international research project on building resilience in Aboriginal communities through engagement, which focuses on biosecurity threats. She highlighted that community engagement on biosecurity in regional and Aboriginal communities across Australia, internationally with New Zealand and Indonesia has been a positive process through the use of Aboriginal Indigenous Engagement Model developed as part of this project. Workshops held in local communities and in the Torres Strait on biosecurity have been well received and beneficial. The engagement model has been distributed in all of the participating countries. The engagement model is available on request.
Lowri Pryce, Chief Executive Officer, OceanWatch Australia
OceanWatch is a Marine Natural Resource Management (NRM) organisation that works to protect biodiversity and threatened species in Australia’s marine environment. OceanWatch works closely with coastal communities and the seafood supply chain to minimise environmental impacts, improve fish habits and water quality, and introduce new technologies and behaviours. Ms Pryce highlighted OceanWatch’s new industry program Master Fisherman, rolling out throughout NSW to train fishers in ethical and responsible fishing practices, and OceanWatch’s recent involvement with on-ground ground awareness raising amongst fishers of the White Spot Disease response, as well as involvement in the recent marine pest incursion preparedness exercise on Sydney Harbour.
Item 6 | Encouraging voluntary compliance – Dr Josiah Pit, Pet Industry Association & Veronica Blazely, Department of the Environment and Energy
Ms Blazely provided an overview of the legislation that governs the importation of live animals into Australia, including the approval process to amend the Live Import List.
Ms Blazely also talked about the challenges of increasing awareness among the public of the requirements to import live animals and explained that there were some common false perceptions which were based on ignorance of the law.
To address this, the department believes that communication is the key component that will encourage voluntary compliance. This includes:
- dispelling the myths that are perpetuated online
- educating the public about the presence of a live import list
- clarifying the legal differences between state and federal legislation and
- making people aware of the requirement for a species to be on both the Live Import List and the Biosecurity Import Conditions Database before considering importation.
Dr Josiah Pit provided an industry viewpoint of voluntary compliance with his insight gained from twelve years of experience within the ornamental fish industry, including in his role as President of the Pet Industry Association of Australia. Dr Pit spoke about some of the common misconceptions that may contribute to non-compliance and the importance of industry taking a lead in encouraging unity and compliance for the shared benefit of industry and the public. An example of this was the work of ‘Aquarium Industries’, a large wholesale supplier of freshwater and marine aquarium fish in Australia, who provide education materials to retailers and customers about biosecurity and their responsibilities.
Dr Pit outlined the role of government to ensure the balance between regulation and facilitating trade and highlighted the need to develop national standards for the ornamental fish industry. In closing, Dr Pit emphasised the importance of building good communication and shared goals to maintaining strong voluntary compliance.
Item 8 | Panel Session – Roles and Responsibilities
- Matt Koval – First Assistant Secretary, Biosecurity Policy and Implementation, DAWR
- Paul Murphy – Assistant Secretary, Wildlife Trade and Biosecurity, DoEE
- Josiah Pit – Director, Pet Industry Association of Australia
- Mark Harvey-Sutton – Manager of Rural Affairs, National Farmers’ Federation
- Stephen Hughes – Senior Manager, Biosecurity and Rural Services , ACT Government
- Bruce Christie – Deputy Director General, Biosecurity and Food Safety, Department of Primary Industries NSW
- Bronwyn Koll – Regional Queensland Fruit Fly Coordinator, Agribusiness Yarra Valley
Each panel member introduced themselves and gave an overview of their role and their organisation’s role within Australia’s biosecurity system, before taking questions from the floor.
The panel answered questions on different topics including behavioural economics and stakeholder understanding of biosecurity (including within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities), biosecurity response deeds, international obligations, treaties and legislation, Commonwealth leadership, and embracing environmental biosecurity.
The responses highlighted:
- importance of research in the behavioural science space.
- need to highlight the value proposition of adopting good biosecurity practices with industry stakeholders to encourage ownership.
- potential gaps in national leadership and coordination and the need for improved coordination, cooperation, transparency, and harmonisation.
- Australia’s work internationally on biosecurity, specifically in the South Pacific region to assist with capacity building, and the ongoing work being undertaken in northern Australia through the Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy (NAQS) and investment through the white papers on Agricultural Competitiveness and Developing Northern Australia.
- increase in Indigenous engagement in biosecurity, including through the NAQS program, and expanding the Indigenous rangers’ network and traineeship programs.
- need to further engage Indigenous stakeholders in biosecurity.
- power of social media as an engagement tool.
- new Environment and Invasives Committee’s commitment to driving progress in environmental biosecurity.
Item 11 | Keeping Groote Eylandt cane toad free – Megan Lewis, South32
Megan Lewis gave an overview of how the South32 global resources company, and the Anindilyakwa Land Council’s Anindilyakwa Ranger group work collaboratively to implement biosecurity measures to protect Groote Eylandt from cane toads.
A number of awareness, detection and containment activities are in place to prevent cane toads from establishing, such as signage and airline announcements, cane toad fences and barge inspections as well as engagement with the local community. South32 have funded a Land and Sea Ranger position since 2017 (a quarantine officer), who works with a trained cane toad detection dog ‘Edna’ to conduct the barge inspections. South32 undertakes ongoing research into alternative control methods for freight pathways, survivability analysis and trapping and monitoring.
The community have been highly engaged in keeping the island cane toad free. They have a very good understanding of the importance of biosecurity and are actively involved in reporting and containing cane toads when required. South32 and Anindilyakwa Ranger group are also actively engaging with other islands, sharing information and lessons learned.
Item 10 | Workshop: National Biosecurity Statement
Dr Rachel Melland, President of the Council of Australasian Weed Societies and member of the working group convened to assist with consultation on the National Biosecurity Statement (NBS) provided an overview of the consultation process on the statement to date.
Dr Melland explained that a draft statement has been developed by the NBS working group, an independent working group consisting of industry, state government and environmental sector representatives which will be involved in the consultation process throughout the year. Dr Melland encouraged organisations to undertake their own consultation and report back through the
Have Your Say on the DAWR website, and emphasised the importance of starting the conversation and broadening awareness and ownership of the biosecurity system.
Dr Melland led table discussions on the statement as part of this session. Feedback on the draft statement was positive, with common themes of leadership, shared responsibility, communication and increasing awareness evident.
The draft statement public consultation is open until 31 October 2018, with the working group, with the working group reforming later in the year to incorporate feedback, before finalising a statement for endorsement at the National Forum in November. More information about the consultation process is below.
Item 12 | Workshop: Biosecurity Information Sources
Participants at the workshop completed the Biosecurity Information Survey, however due to time constraints the group were unable to discuss their responses at the workshop.
Following the roundtable, analysis of the completed surveys highlighted the primary role of Commonwealth and state governments as sources of information, followed by industry groups or associations and peers. Respondents reported accessing information equally from a variety of sources including face to face (22 per cent), seminar/meeting (22 per cent), emails/newsletters (21 per cent) and websites (20 per cent).
Full results of the survey across all biosecurity roundtables will be reported to the National Biosecurity Forum in November 2018.
The survey is available for organisations or industry bodies to run with their own members – please contact the Biosecurity Roundtable Secretariat to obtain a copy of the
survey: firstname.lastname@example.org or 1800 068 468.
Item 13 | Workshop: Future stakeholder engagement on environmental biosecurity
The Queensland representative from the Environmental and Invasives Committee (EIC), John Robertson, led table based discussions on the priority issues and challenges of stakeholder engagement. The aim of this workshop was to gain the views and insights of roundtable participants into how environmental biosecurity stakeholders could best work together into the future, through both existing forums and new opportunities.
The responses highlighted the need for:
- forward planning to assist with arranging logistics and streamlining meetings
- a clear agenda, with clear objectives to ensure value and relevance of discussions are clearly articulated
- consideration of resourcing constraints of local and regional stakeholder groups and the benefit of webinars and live streaming
- follow-up with stakeholders after forums to ensure continued engagement
- engagement of a diverse range stakeholders
- outcomes to be achievable and realistic in timeframes
- effective facilitation of conversations and discussions
- networking opportunities outside of formal meetings to build relationships
- transparent and effective decision making.
A summary of this discussion was provided to a task group of the EIC the following day. Insights from the roundtable will assist the task group with the establishment of a subcommittee of EIC, which will have a focus on environmental biosecurity stakeholder engagement.