Three strategic pillars to ensure PHA meets vision by 2027

PHA’s new Strategic Plan 2022 –27 sets the company’s direction for the next five years and considers the challenges and opportunities that may present in the near future.

A strong and resilient plant biosecurity system is built on connected strategies and partnerships, effective and efficient response and recovery, and leveraged data and technology for improved decision-making and rapid response to biosecurity threats.

The three pillars of PHA’s strategy: responding effectively, strengthening partnerships, and enhancing integration, are set to deliver on our vision to be a valued leader of a strong, integrated plant biosecurity system.

Challenges and opportunities such as changing trading patterns/supply chains; shifts in geopolitics; merging of pest and disease regions; and climate and land-use changes have all lead to ever-more expansive established pests ranges.

It has been estimated that a serious incursion of a major plant pest could potentially cost our horticultural and broadacre industries upward of $29 billion.

“These drivers and the cumulative effects of multiple incursions all impact the future of plant biosecurity and have been considered in formulating the new strategy,” said Sarah Corcoran, CEO of Plant Health Australia.

PHA will focus on being a valued leader of a strong and integrated biosecurity system while our mission remains to strengthen the Australian plant biosecurity system to benefit the economy, environment, and community.

“Our role as the trusted coordinator of the plant biosecurity system bringing expertise, knowledge and stakeholders together to generate solutions is already well established however making sure the system is future-orientated and solutions-focused will add a level of complexity,” she said.

Connected strategies and partnerships, effective and efficient response and recovery and leveraging data and technology to improve decision-making, are all elements of a strong and resilient plant biosecurity system.

To advance Australia’s ability to respond and recover from plant pest incursions, PHA will continue its commitment to the Emergency Plant Pest Deed (EPPRD) and work with stakeholders to consider other national arrangements The focus will be on designing fit-for-purpose national response arrangements and establish mature levels of biosecurity response capability. The company will also support cohesive networks of stakeholders that are ready to respond to biosecurity threats.

By developing cohesive member, supply chain and science and technology networks, PHA will be able to establish new relationships with non-traditional and international partners. This will lead to increased positive sentiment towards the value of existing partnerships and increase the number of industry and partner programs. PHA will also work to increase an understanding of industry adoption of biosecurity practices and focus on the benefits of partnered communication, extension and training valued by industry.

Improving Australia’s ability to identify and detect biosecurity threats, remains one of PHA’s key priorities, which will increase awareness of the use of innovative technologies and approaches. The company will focus on enhancing national identification and detection capability, increasing knowledge brokering and engagement initiatives with the community.

Download a copy of PHA’s Strategic Plan 2022-27.

Message from the CEO November 2021

Quite a lot has happened in the last month with detections of the exotic beetle, polyphagous shot-hole borer (Euwallacea fornicatus) in Western Australia and the exotic moth, mango shoot looper (Perixera illepidaria) in Queensland, eDNA technology deployed with frontline biosecurity officersa new traceability pilot project for high-value exports and expressions of interests for the Biosecurity Innovation Program. These activities, investments, and collaborations demonstrate how the adoption of innovation, use of contemporary technology, and strategic partnerships help to build a stronger national plant biosecurity system. These detections are also an ever-present reminder to check plants and crops regularly for signs of pests and diseases and report anything unusual to the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.

In PHA news, our 2021 Annual Report is out now and available for download on the PHA website. The Annual Report marks my first year as CEO and the end of the 2016-21 Strategic Plan. I’m proud to report the PHA team has worked diligently, performing well against our key performance indicators. Keep an eye out for our new five-year Strategic Plan which will be launched later this month.

PHA’s member meetings will be held virtually on 23-24 November 2021, with the 21st Annual General Meeting being held on Tuesday 23 November. Member registration forms are available online and registrations close on Monday 15 November.

Yesterday, the virtual Australian Biosecurity Awards were held. Congratulations to Pohlman’s Nursery for taking home the Farm Biosecurity Producer of the Year Award. The award recognises Pohlman’s Nursery role in leading the adoption and implementation of an on-farm biosecurity program in the nursery production industry. It is always an honour to present this award alongside Animal Health Australia, and we are pleased to see a large-scale plant producer that is so passionate about biosecurity and who have shared the benefit of improved production with their industry.

I was also honoured with the Dr Kim Ritman Award for Science and Innovation. Thank you to Jenny Logan for your nomination and the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment for awarding me this accolade. To be recognised in the league of great scientists is very humbling. Plant health is of global importance and a field of great complexity that requires lateral thinking and collaboration. My inspiration comes from developing new and innovative ways to further protect Australia’s biosecurity system.

Sarah Corcoran
CEO, Plant Health Australia

PHA Board meeting 104

The Plant Health Australia (PHA) Board met virtually on the 29 and 30 September for Board Meeting 104. The meeting was originally planned as a face-to-face meeting in Darwin, Northern Territory, but couldn’t go ahead due to COVID-19 travel restrictions across several parts of Australia.

Discussions on Day 1 covered PHA’s strategic projects and objectives including the endorsement 2022-27 Strategic Plan, continued development of the National Plant Biosecurity Strategy and renewal of PHA and Animal Health Australia’s (AHA) Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Items of note included:

  • The new 2022–2027 Strategic Plan will be released in November 2021
  • Work is underway to finalise the National Plant Biosecurity Surveillance Strategy 2021-2031 and National Plant Biosecurity Preparedness Strategy 2021-2031
  • An independent review of the National Fruit Fly Council operation and composition will be conducted by the end of 2021
  • The Board supported approved the PHA/AHA MoU.

Day 2 featured a comprehensive review of financial reports and audits, risk mitigation plans and strategies and other internal policies.

PHA takes a proactive approach to risk management through all levels of the organisation and the Board is responsible for ensuring that risks and opportunities are identified on a timely basis and that PHA’s objectives and activities are aligned with these risks and opportunities as they are identified. Directors consider PHA’s risks at strategic and operational levels and critically review a risk management report at each Board and Finance and Audit Committee meeting which include analysis from the PHA management team of risk ratings, the reporting of risk mitigation actions and their effects.

The financial report for Plant Health Australia Limited for the year ended 30 June 2021 was authorised for issue in accordance with a resolution of the Directors on 29 September 2021.

Victorian Industry Liaison training delivered

PHA and Agriculture Victoria delivered training on 4 October, as part of the Industry Liaison (IL) training program. Due to the uncertainty of COVID-19 restrictions, the workshop was delivered virtually over two sessions.

The workshop was attended by government and industry bodies including AUSVEG, Australian Sweet Potato Growers, Australian Table Grapes Association, Citrus Australia, Bunnings and representatives from honey bees, almonds and forestry. Guest facilitator Trevor Ranford, an experienced IL representative presented a session on his experiences as an IL representative during a response – further highlighting the important role industry has in a response.

Training topics included:

  • an overview of the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed (EPPRD)
  • emergency management principles
  • the IL role and its importance in an emergency plant pest incident response
  • the incident response structures used in Victoria
  • how incident managers manage plant response operations
  • how Agriculture Victoria engages with industry in a response
  • the importance of effective communications in a response.

Feedback from industry representatives was very positive with one attendee saying: “Overall, a really interesting workshop and was really glad I got a chance to participate in this training!”

Future workshops will be delivered in jurisdictions with the next workshop planned for Queensland in February 2022.

PHA CEO recognised at this year’s Australian Biosecurity Awards

The strength and innovation of Australia’s biosecurity system was on full display at the 2021 Australian Biosecurity Awards

Plant Health Australia’s (PHA) CEO, Sarah Corcoran was presented the Dr Kim Ritman Award for Science and Innovation. Now in its second year, the award honours the contributions of the late Dr Kim Ritman, by recognising outstanding ambassadors for science and innovation.

Sarah’s outstanding contributions to biosecurity throughout her career including the delivery of many significant eradication programs for agricultural and environmental pests, and oversight of investment in infrastructure and biosecurity research has enabled her to implement consistent approach to biosecurity nationally.

“Thank you to Jenny Logan for your nomination and the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment for awarding me this honour.

Plant health is of global importance and a field of great complexity that requires lateral thinking and collaboration. To be recognised in the league of great scientists is very humbling” Sarah said.

Individuals, groups and organisations recognised at this year’s Australian Biosecurity Awards have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to strengthening Australia’s biosecurity system with  several other winners from the plant biosecurity sector.

Pohlman’s Nursery of Queensland took home the Farm Biosecurity Producer of the Year Award, sponsored by Plant Health Australia and Animal Health Australia.

“It is always an honour to present the Farm Biosecurity Producer of the Year award alongside Animal Health Australia, and we are pleased to see a large-scale plant producer that is so passionate about biosecurity and who have shared the benefit of improved production with their industry.”

Minister for Agriculture and Northern Australia David Littleproud said the annual awards recognise those making vital contributions to protecting our enviable biosecurity status.

“The Australian Biosecurity Awards shine a light on our biosecurity champions to recognise those working tirelessly to maintain and improve Australia’s biosecurity,” Minister Littleproud said.

“The risks to our plant, animal and human health, and financial losses in key agricultural industries, could be devastating if an exotic pest or disease like African swine fever, khapra beetle or brown marmorated stink bug were to establish here.

“As we reflect on these challenges and opportunities, it’s important to recognise the crucial efforts of our biosecurity champions.”

The more information and a full list of winners visit the Australian Biosecurity Awards website.

Message from the CEO October 2021

With 120,000 beehives required to support pollination of north west Victoria’s almond orchards, up to 20 million sterile fruit flies released over Adelaide each week and the kick-off to the brown marmorated stink bug season, the past month demonstrates the ongoing investment in prevention activities to protect the livelihoods of producers and the end-to-end supply chain.

Our 2021 Annual Report has been finalised and marks my first year at the helm of PHA. Despite the unprecedented challenges the past year has brought, the PHA team has worked diligently to deliver against the seven key result areas while continuing to bring together and partner with stakeholders to achieve our collective goals. The Board selection process has progressed well and more information on the nominees as well as a copy of the Annual Report will be available in the Annual General Meeting papers that will be distributed to our members at the end of the month.

In partnership with Grain Producers Australia, we have designed, developed and launched a new online biosecurity hub with industry-specific resources and tools for grain growers. The Grains Farm Biosecurity website aims to improve the management and preparedness for biosecurity risks in the grains industry at farm and industry levels by providing practical biosecurity management tools that make a big difference.

Later this month, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) will host episode five in their Australian Biosecurity Series titled ‘Protecting Australia’s plant health’. With speakers from the Plant Innovation Centre, DAWE and PHA, the webinar will explore the status of plant biosecurity including key pests and diseases and how the risks are managed. Email biosecurity.education@awe.gov.au to become part of the biosecurity webinar series distribution list and receive alerts.

The National Biosecurity Forum will take place online from 10-11 November. Hosted on behalf of the National Biosecurity Committee, this annual forum brings together government, business and industry stakeholders to discuss the challenges, opportunities and innovative approaches to protecting Australia’s biosecurity system. This year the forum will be forward looking with focus on a national biosecurity strategy, shared responsibility and partnerships and preparedness. The Australian Biosecurity Awards will also be presented at the forum. Register to attend.

The National Botanic Gardens Surveillance Network consists of staff from botanic gardens across Australia. For the team at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, plant health is a priority year-round with coordinated surveillance efforts to detect and diagnose significant plant pests and diseases. In episode 26 of ABC’s Gardening Australia, Chris Lang the Curator discusses the devastating impact of myrtle rust in Australia.

In the ACT, as we look forward to the easing of restrictions, we are planning a phased return-to-the office approach for our locally-based staff that is COVID-19 safe and ensures ongoing connectivity with our stakeholders.

Sarah Corcoran
CEO, Plant Health Australia

New biosecurity hub for grains industry

Plant Health Australia (PHA) in partnership with Grain Producers Australia (GPA) have launched an online hub of industry-specific biosecurity resources and tools.

Designed with grain growers in mind, the easy to use Grains Farm Biosecurity website provides fact sheets, videos, how-to guides, online training and strategies to prepare producers to manage on farm biosecurity risks.

Australia’s $18 billion grains industry generates more than 170,000 jobs and export grains to the value of $13.9 billion. With a high reliance on exports, maintaining market access through the implementation of good biosecurity practices is critically important to the grains industry.

“With zero market tolerance for live pests in grain, farm biosecurity should be top of mind. The new website offers a suite of practical biosecurity management tools that make a big difference,” says Stuart Kearns, PHA’s National Manager, Preparedness and RD&E.

The industry-specific website provides:

  • biosecurity best practices
  • information about grain crops grown in Australia
  • pest reporting guidance
  • a pest and disease database
  • industry news
  • a list of field days and other industry events.

GPA Chair and Western Australian grain producer, Barry Large, said the new website would be a valuable tool for growers and is being delivered as part of the Grains Farm Biosecurity Program. He said the Program was established in 2007 and is managed by PHA, with funding provided by growers through GPA, together with the New South Wales, Queensland, South Australian, Victorian and Western Australian governments.

“This new website aims to improve the management and preparedness for biosecurity risks in the grains industry at farm and industry levels,” Mr Large said.

“Establishing good biosecurity practices on farm is not only good for individual businesses but it also adds another layer of protection to Australia’s world-class biosecurity system.

“Everyone has a role to play in protecting Australia against harmful pests and diseases, so if you spot anything unusual or find something you are unsure about, call the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.”

Visit the Grains Farm Biosecurity website for the latest grains biosecurity news and information.

Safeguarding Indigenous-led forestry

Plant Health Australia (PHA) is leading a consortium of Indigenous forestry enterprises and experts, and plant biosecurity researchers to boost biosecurity awareness and improve biosecurity practices to protect community-managed forestry businesses from exotic pests and diseases.

According to a 2020 report published by the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia, the northern Australian forestry industry has an annual production value of over $80 million, accounts for over 48% of Australia’s total forests and currently directly supports around 1,200 jobs. Of the 35 million hectares of forest in northern Australia, Indigenous communities own and manage around 46 million hectares, but lack specific biosecurity goals needed to protect their forests from existing and emerging biosecurity threats.

As the national co-ordinator of the government-industry partnership for plant biosecurity in Australia, PHA has a long history of bringing stakeholders together to strengthen the National Plant Biosecurity System. This collaboration will build on existing partnerships and foster new relationships with land-owners and managers.

“PHA is excited to work with Indigenous-owned forestry businesses in the north to grow their biosecurity knowledge and embed good biosecurity practices to support a sustainable forestry industry. This project brings together forest biosecurity specialists and forest owners to develop a practical understanding of the biosecurity risks these businesses face,” says PHA CEO, Sarah Corcoran.

Project partners include Indigenous-led forestry businesses, Gumatj Corporation, Wik Timbers and Tiwi Plantations, the University of the Sunshine Coast’s Tropical Forests and People Research Centre, the Northern Territory Government’s Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade, Queensland’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Northern Australian Quarantine Strategy.

Funded under the Australian Government’s Biosecurity Business Grant, the project operationalises the objectives of the Northern Australia Biosecurity Strategy 2030 by enhancing coordination of biosecurity activities, implementing proactive surveillance and prevention activities and investing in system-wide capability for the benefit of northern Australia. The project will establish a baseline pest and disease risk assessment, initiate surveillance, diagnostics and preparedness training, evaluate current biosecurity systems, update and establish best practice biosecurity methods and deliver a biosecurity risk mitigation plan, encompassing a wet and dry season for each location.

“I am very pleased to build on long-held relationships with these forestry ventures, and their trusted research partners,” says Dr Mila Bristow, PHA’s National Manager Performance and Innovation, and tropical forestry research adjunct at the University of the Sunshine Coast. “In time, this sort of partnership will support Indigenous forestry workers to train their staff and embed biosecurity best practice as business as usual.”

Message from the CEO September 2021

The ongoing state and territory COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions continue to challenge our business as usual practices however they’ve also provided us with opportunities to find new ways of facilitating and driving partnerships to improve policy, practice and performance of the plant biosecurity system.

An example of this was the virtual launch of the 2020 edition of the National Plant Biosecurity Status Report (NPBSR) – a comprehensive online resource detailing Australia’s plant biosecurity system and the pre-border, border and post-border activities undertaken in the last year. Now in its 13th year, the NPBSR brings together contributions from over 100 government, industry and research organisations and is the only published source of biosecurity research, development and extension projects aimed at enhancing capability within the system.

While under lockdown, our Canberra-based staff delivered training to 20 staff from Western Australia’s Kings Park Botanical Gardens and Tasmania’s Royal Tasmanian Botanic Gardens on how to conduct plant biosecurity surveillance. Similarly, our Fruit Fly team also hosted a predictive modelling and forecasting webinar where 150 attendees had the opportunity to hear from some of Australia’s smartest modellers of pest and disease occurrence on the innovative tools and techniques available to support Australia’s trade environment. These events demonstrate our strength in bringing stakeholders together – regardless of the medium.

Ongoing workforce shortages in the agriculture and primary industry sectors as a result of COVID-19, will hopefully soon be a thing of the past, with the Australian Governments’ announcement of the Australian Agriculture visa. Open to workers across agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors, the visa will be key to supporting the Ag2030 target.

Last month we celebrated National Science Week and used the event as an opportunity to reflect and share the important science-based work done in the field of plant biosecurity – including how science enhances plant health, assists in trade, safeguards and supports the future of plant industries and preserves environmental health. Thank you CSIRO and Sugar Research Australia for sharing your scientific knowledge to shine a spotlight on the important role science plays in plant biosecurity.

As we enter Spring, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) has announced the agricultural sector is on track for a record-breaking year with gross value of production forecasted to reach $73 billion. The 7 per cent rise is attributed to a near-record winter crop harvest, combined with strong global prices for grain, sugar and cotton. This is the first time the agriculture has been valued at over $70 billion. In more good news, with the onset of Spring, the seasonal weather looks promising with climate models indicating wetter conditions in the coming three months with Spring temperatures set to be cooler.

Sarah Corcoran
CEO, Plant Health Australia

Training to boost industry response capability

Biosecurity Queensland, Animal Health Australia and Plant Health Australia have teamed up to provide training to industry representatives on how communication and engagement unfolds in a biosecurity incident.

The training is designed to provide a development opportunity for industry-based communication and engagement professionals who may be involved in a biosecurity incident response.

This training is aimed at developing the skills and knowledge of industry-based communication and engagement professionals who may work alongside a government public information function in a biosecurity incident response. This includes anyone who would have a role in media, social media, marketing, engagement and communication within the agriculture sector.

This training involved participants’ completing approximately 1-2 hours of online self-paced learning, followed by a 3 hour online interactive workshop.

Topics covered in the workshop include:

  • an overview of biosecurity incidents
  • industry preparedness for biosecurity incidents
  • how to achieve effective communication and engagement during an incident
  • how government and industry work together in a biosecurity response
  • biosecurity incident public information case studies: Learning from industry experience

This training was offered in-kind by Biosecurity Queensland with the support of AHA and PHA.