A unique opportunity has arisen to develop a strategy that will deliver a modern, dynamic and integrated national plant biosecurity system. This has been provided by the release of the Beale Review, 1 and subsequent steps to reorganise Australia’s plant biosecurity system and establish an Inter-Governmental Agreement on Biosecurity.
Australia has a plant production system, including agriculture and forestry, worth $25 billion2,3 annually and a unique environment to protect. This system not only supports the livelihoods and investments of individual producers, it also protects consumers in domestic and export markets, by maintaining the integrity, quality and sustainability of Australia’s food supply.
Ensuring the continued success of Australia’s plant biosecurity system is not easy. It currently faces a number of substantial challenges, including a diversity of stakeholders, a need to intercept pests across 60,000 km of coastline, domestic and international regulatory and trade pressures, increasing tourism and trade as well as climate change and variability. Adding to these challenges is the need to manage human, infrastructure and financial resources within a complex mix of competing demands.
There is a recognition that the plant biosecurity system is significantly under-resourced and that if this is not addressed, it could have a significant impact on Australia’s ability to manage plant pests.1
Ensuring government and industry representatives continue to work together in partnership to refine and develop the system, to fill gaps and meet future challenges is critical. Although many components of a national system are in place and necessary initiatives are underway, to date Australia has not had a cohesive and agreed national strategy specific to plant biosecurity. Having this in place will ensure greater and continued benefits to the broader community.
Facing these challenges head on, the National Plant Biosecurity Strategy (NPBS) presents a blueprint for a strengthened national plant biosecurity system to 2020. This system needs to manage risks associated with plant pests (established and exotic) and other threats that have the potential to adversely affect plant biosecurity. The NPBS provides clear guidance to decision makers, policy creators and funding agencies as to the direction that must be taken to secure Australia’s plant biosecurity future.
Ten strategies have been formulated to respond to the challenges currently facing the system. These are to:
1. Adopt nationally consistent plant biosecurity legislation, regulations and approaches where possible within each state and territory government’s overarching legislative framework
2. Establish a nationally coordinated surveillance system
3. Build Australia’s ability to prepare for, and respond to, pest incursions
4. Expand Australia’s plant biosecurity training capacity and capability
5. Create a nationally integrated diagnostic network
6. Enhance national management systems for established pests
7. Establish an integrated national approach to plant biosecurity education and awareness
8. Develop a national framework for plant biosecurity research
9. Adopt systems and mechanisms for the efficient and effective distribution, communication and uptake of plant biosecurity information
10. Monitor the integrity of the plant biosecurity system.
Each strategy is underpinned by a number of recommendations and actions, which are fully explained in this strategy.
Implementation of the NPBS will deliver an internationally first class plant biosecurity system capable of supporting sustainable plant production and environmental health while maintaining and enhancing market access.