National Biosecurity Committee Meeting 30 and Strategic Workshop 17

The National Biosecurity Committee met on 26-27 March 2019 in Toowoomba, Queensland.

The Committee discussed key issues across the country, with a particular focus on the biosecurity challenges arising from the drought and flood events in many parts of Australia. The declaration of freedom from Banana Freckle in the Northern Territory and positive outcomes in relation to the Citrus Canker emergency response were noted.

In a first for the Committee, Queensland provided an update to the group on discussions with its Industry and Community Reference Group on key biosecurity issues. The next meeting of this type will be in the Australian Capital Territory, which is hosting the next Committee meeting. The Committee also noted the apology from the Australian Local Government Association, which has been invited to join the Committee as an observer.

The Committee endorsed further efforts to strengthen engagement across biosecurity stakeholders. With the release of the industry-community developed National Biosecurity Statement at the 2019 National Biosecurity Forum, the Committee agreed further work to support its use by groups to enhance biosecurity awareness and preparedness. Progress on the new national biosecurity website was discussed, including the likely mid-year release of a public beta test site. The website is intended to be a first point of call for individuals, businesses and community groups on biosecurity matters. The Committee agreed the statement and supporting engagement material will be hosted here.

In the context of the United Nations General Assembly’s announcement that 2020 is the International Year of Plant Health, the Committee discussed the significance of this event for biosecurity awareness raising across the broader community.  Members committed to a series of launch and other activities over the year.

The good progress being made on environmental biosecurity matters was recognised. The Committee noted the establishment of the Environmental Biosecurity Advisory Group, chaired by the new Chief Environmental Biosecurity Officer. While established under the Environmental and Invasives Committee, this group has a critical role to ensure environmental biosecurity issues are considered across the board. Work to finalise the priority environmental pest and disease list was noted, together with broader efforts to build preparedness for emergency responses in the environmental sector.

The National Invasive Ant Biosecurity Plan was endorsed, the first plan of its kind to address both biosecurity and threatened species risks. It sets out a nationally agreed approach to enhancing Australia’s ability to address the ongoing threat of invasive ants establishing here, as well as the impacts of those already here, to people, agriculture and the environment.

The Committee heard an update on the National Red Imported Fire Ant eradication program in south east Queensland, including on the enhanced treatment protocol for the western boundary and efforts to increase the scope for third parties, such as land developers, to treat infestations.

Opportunities to strengthen our traceability systems to better respond to pest and disease outbreaks, food safety issues and maintain and grow market access issues were discussed. The SAFEMEAT Chair and Head of Policy briefed the Committee on work to further strengthen livestock traceability arrangements. The Committee also discussed options for implementing nationally consistent property identification arrangements across livestock and plant production, as agreed by agriculture ministers. Broad industry support to act in this space was acknowledged.

The Committee noted the recent farm trespass events and discussed their potential biosecurity and animal welfare implications.

The Committee considered progress toward an Aquatic Deed, including the expectation a final draft will be provided to prospective parties for consideration in June 2019. It reiterated its support for the project, noting the importance of the deed framework for timely, effective nationally cost-shared responses to outbreaks of exotic diseases.

The Australian Priority Marine Pest List was endorsed.

The Committee agreed to explore options to improve the delivery of effective plant health biosecurity treatments across import, export and domestic pathways.

It also agreed to enhance the coordination of government and industry led fruit fly efforts across Australia, and to collaborative efforts to guide research directions under the Smart Fruit Fly Management measure announced by the Australian Government in November 2018. At its workshop on 27 March 2019, the Committee then discussed its priorities for strengthening Australia’s fruit fly management system given its significance to domestic movement and export outcomes for affected industries and local communities.

The Committee also discussed:

  • the recent evaluation of the performance of Australia’s veterinary services and options to undertake a similar assessment for the plant sector
  • projects to advance its national biosecurity research and innovation priorities
  • options to reduce the risk of pest and disease spread through production nurseries into commercial and retail premises.

The Committee agreed that its next meeting would be in the Australian Capital Territory on 24-25 September 2019.

For any questions regarding this communique, please email the NBC Secretariat.

The National Biosecurity Committee is responsible for managing a national, strategic approach to biosecurity threats relating to plant and animal pests and diseases, marine and aquatic pests, and the impact of these on agricultural production, the environment, community wellbeing and social amenity. The Committee provides advice to the Agriculture Senior Officials Committee and the Agriculture Minister’s Forum on national biosecurity issues, and on progress in implementing the Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity.

For further information on the National Biosecurity Committee, you can visit the Committee’s website, hosted by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.