Board update – Board meeting 99

June 30, 2020

Plant Health Australia (PHA) held its 99th Board meeting via Zoom on Wednesday 27 May 2020. The agenda was slightly modified to reduce the overall time on a video call. It focused on outcomes from the 19th General Meeting on 25 May 2020, strategy and issues requiring decision.

COVID-19

COVID-19 was of course a significant topic. The Board reconfirmed their focus on the health and well-being of staff and the need to support members.

Overall, PHA has managed to maintain services to members and work on a wide range of projects.

Most staff have worked well from home with around 10 staff attending the office. PHA is maintaining strong procedures on physical distancing, and hand and respiratory hygiene. Staff numbers in offices and meeting rooms has been capped to ensure we meet the 4 square metre guidelines.

There have been several very positive webinars with numbers greater than those expected at planned face to face engagements. Over the past few months there were also increases in visitors to PHA managed websites.

From late June, staff will be able to return to the office, this being consistent with the ACT Government’s position on reducing restrictions.

19th General Meeting

The 19th General Meeting was held by webinar on Monday 25 May with around 40 members engaged. The virtual meeting also gave staff the opportunity to attend, one of the advantages of the webinar format.

The Chairman, Steve McCutcheon presented an opening address with an overview of PHA’s plans for 2020–21 as well as an update on Board selection and CEO succession.

The Executive Director and CEO then presented an update on performance against the 2019–20 Annual Operation Plan before detailing the 2020–21 Annual Operational Plan (AOP).

Members then resolved in support of the PHA suggestion that subscriptions not be increased for next year. This decision was taken in light of difficulties in the industry operating environment due to fire and drought. Members also unanimously agreed to support a number of Resolutions relating to the PHA Constitution.

Strategy

PHA is planning to continue its MoU with Animal Health Australia as this supports a number of on farm, training and communication initiatives. We are also jointly supporting the revision of CSIRO’s Australia’s Biosecurity Future report which will inform our review of the National Plant Biosecurity Strategy and input into PHA’s next Strategic Plan.

PHA’s annual Strategy Workshop normally held in late July has been delayed until September. Planning is progressing on the assumption that travel restrictions will be eased by then. The PHA Board is also reviewing its risk appetite and is currently considering a new mapping tool which will be discussed at the Strategy Workshop.

Budget

The Board also formally approved PHA’s 2020–21 budget and AOP following the members’ decision on subscriptions, noting a planned deficit of $59,656. Current year to date financials were reviewed, noting the potential impact of drought on levy income. The financial forecast at the end of March indicated a surplus for the year of approximately $112,000, some $130,000 ahead of budget. The Board noted the difficulty that COVID-19 was having on accurate forecasting.

Policies

The Board approved a number of policies including Parental and Adoption Leave, Delegations and Authorities, and Staff Induction. The Board also established a new People and Culture Committee to replace the existing Remuneration Committee. Terms of Reference for the new committee were approved at this meeting.

Outgoing Executive Director and CEO

As this was the outgoing Executive Director and CEO Greg Fraser’s last Board meeting, Directors noted his performance, building the company to where it is today in times when all members had differing views on a range of subjects. But it’s not all over yet, as the Board agreed to hold a delayed send-off event for Greg at the November AGM on Tuesday, 17 November in Canberra.