Northern Australia Biosecurity Framework Reference Group

The Northern Australia Biosecurity Framework Reference provides strategic advice on, and support for, a collaborative approach to the delivery of biosecurity in northern Australia. It builds on and supersedes the Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy (NAQS) Steering Committee.

The Reference Group identifies common biosecurity delivery priorities across governments and agricultural industries to help ensure that the Australian Government biosecurity surveillance effort for northern Australia is appropriately targeted to risk, and effectively aligned with other stakeholder effort.

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​​Communiqué - 6 December 2016

The third meeting of the Northern Australia Biosecurity Framework Reference Group took place in Cairns on Tuesday 6 December 2016.

This meeting heard about progress on biosecurity projects which should benefit farmers, communities and the environment generally across northern Australia. Some of the main achievements in less than 12 months include:

  • an additional 26 Indigenous Ranger groups have agreed to undertake biosecurity work across northern Australia, increasing number of ranger groups actively engaged in biosecurity work by over 50% and a total of sixty-six
  • equipment and training has been provided to 57 ranger groups to increase the capacity of groups to deliver biosecurity work mainly in remote locations
  • new ‘sentinel’ cattle herds have been established in Gunbalanya (NT), Merepah (Qld) and the Western Province of PNG to help monitor animal health in remote areas
  • state, territory and commonwealth governments have agreed on the most important aquatic diseases and marine pests to be targeted across Northern Australia
  • a network of tropical biosecurity diagnostic specialists has been established to link this expertise including animal health, entomology and plant pathology

The meeting endorsed a list of animal and plant surveillance projects to be managed cooperatively by governments and agriculture industry bodies.

All participants reported on the extensive range of biosecurity activities being undertaken and reinforced the importance of biosecurity across jurisdictions, industry groups and government departments.

These and other projects will build stronger, more secure biosecurity protection – not just for northern Australia but all of Australia.

The Reference Group agreed to bring forward an evaluation of the effectiveness of the Indigenous Ranger biosecurity initiative. This will help identify areas which should be improved, expanded and sustained into the future.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA), Mr Wayne See Kee, provided a comprehensive briefing of the role, challenges and opportunities for the TSRA and the Torres Strait community. The Meeting heard a report on a new Torres Strait/Cape York Biosecurity Working Group which met for the first time on 5 December 2016 to develop a more collaborative approach to biosecurity across the Torres Strait and Northern Cape York region. This Working group is a successful case study arising from a cooperative approach to biosecurity in priority areas of northern Australia.

The Reference Group also visited the Djunbunji Ranger group at East Trinity Reserve on Mandingalbay Yidinji Country who demonstrated a variety of biosecurity and environmental management work including acid sulphate rehabilitation, lychee and banana farming.

The meeting was attended by senior representatives from WA, NT and Queensland governments, Plant Health Australia, Animal Health Australia, the Office of Northern Australia, the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet, the Torres Strait Regional Authority and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

The Reference Group will meet again in early 2017 in northern Australia.

​​Communiqué - 29 June 2016

The Northern Australia Biosecurity Framework Reference Group met on Wednesday 29 June 2016.
The group discussions focused on collaborative biosecurity activities particularly around the development of diagnostic capability and the potential scope of work for Indigenous Rangers in northern Australia.

Updates on priority areas:

Northern Australia Indigenous Rangers’ initiative:

  • 17 additional Ranger groups (on top of the existing 40 with whom the Australian Government have had contracts) agreeing to undertake biosecurity work across northern Australia.
  • Procurement of training and equipment for Ranger groups to increase biosecurity operational capability and effectiveness is underway. Equipment includes utility terrain vehicles, trailers, computers and cameras, weed spraying units, water tanks, satellite phones and vehicle recovery kits.

‘Stronger Biosecurity services in northern Australia’ initiative:

  • The establishment of three additional sentinel herds to increase northern Australia’s arbovirus vigilance – two were established in northern Australia and one in PNG. A fourth additional sentinel herd will be established in Timor-Leste, with a scoping visit to Timor-Leste to be delivered in June in partnership with Berrimah Veterinary Laboratory.
  • The establishment of a surveillance technical working group to develop, prioritise and coordinate the delivery of initiatives to improve biosecurity in northern Australia. The group is an operational working group with key outcomes to improve plant and animal investigation through training and developing capacity and ensuring priority pests and diseases are those that have significant impact in the north.

‘Better diagnostic capacity’ initiative:

  • The establishment of a Tropical Plant Biosecurity Diagnostics Network to link diagnostician’s skills with modern diagnostic tools across northern Australia.
  • Investment in new diagnostic equipment in northern laboratories to support tropical biosecurity surveillance and response needs. This has included a scanning electron microscope, culture incubators, dissecting microscopes and thermal cyclers.

The Reference Group was chaired by Department of Agriculture and Water Resources Deputy Secretary Lyn O‘Connell and was attended by:

  • Jim Thompson, Queensland Chief Biosecurity Officer;
  • Michelle Rodan, NT Director Biosecurity and Animal Welfare;
  • Kevin Chennell, Executive Director Biosecurity and Regulation Department of Agriculture & Food WA;
  • Kathleen Plowman, Chief Executive Officer - Animal Health Australia,
  • Mark Coffey, Head of Office of Northern Australia;
  • Kim Ritman, Chief Plant Protection Officer;
  • Mark Schipp, Chief Veterinary Officer, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

The Reference Group will meet again in northern Australia in October 2016.

Communiqué - 23 March 2016

The inaugural Northern Australia Biosecurity Framework Reference Group met on Wednesday 23 March 2016.

The Reference Group was established to strengthen biosecurity across northern Australia and support a collaborative approach to new northern Australia biosecurity projects.

The group noted the intent of the Developing Northern Australia and the Agricultural Competitiveness White Papers, including increasing economic opportunities and stronger agriculture in particular.

The Reference Group discussed opportunities presented by the White Papers to deliver lasting benefits in six areas:

  1. Indigenous Rangers – expanding the scope, volume and remuneration of biosecurity work undertaken by Indigenous biosecurity rangers across northern Australia;
  2. Northern Australia Biosecurity Surveillance – including new aquatic biosecurity surveillance work and improving biosecurity infrastructure on Torres Strait Islands;
  3. Offshore Biosecurity Surveillance – including collaborative biosecurity surveys in Indian Ocean territories and neighbouring countries;
  4. Modern diagnostics – to support tropical biosecurity networks, knowledge and facilities;
  5. Better data – to improve the accuracy and usefulness of field biosecurity data collected across northern Australia; and
  6. Community engagement – expanding information and tools available to identify and report potential biosecurity threats.

The Reference Group was chaired by Department of Agriculture and Water Resources Deputy Secretary Ms Lyn O‘Connell and was attended by:

  • Jim Thompson, Queensland Chief Biosecurity Officer;
  • Michelle Rodan, NT Director Biosecurity and Animal Welfare;
  • Kevin Chennell, Executive Director Biosecurity and Regulation Department of Agriculture & Food WA;
  • Greg Fraser, CEO Plant Health Australia;
  • Ian Langstaff, Animal Health Australia,
  • Mark Coffey, Head of Office of Northern Australia;
  • Brant Smith, Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet;
  • Kim Ritman, Chief Plant Protection Officer;
  • Robyn Martin, Animal Biosecurity Division, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

The Reference Group will meet again in Darwin in May.

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