June CEO message

June 20, 2023

We kicked-off the last month of the financial year with a full itinerary of meetings and events that provided many opportunities for face-to-face discussions and networking. In the first week of June, Board Meeting 111 (BM111) was held in Sydney and included discussion on strategic issues, a review of financial reports, risk management plans and policies as well as management and compliance activities of the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed (EPPRD). Further details of the meeting discussions are available in the BM111 communique.

BM111 was followed by two days of Plant Health Australia (PHA) Member meetings including the 22nd General Meeting (GM), 12th PHA Members Forum, the 35th Plant Industry Forum, the 37th EPPRD Signatories Meeting and 4th Annual Debriefing Forum. Following the consultation period, PHA’s 2023-24 Annual Operational Plan (AOP) outlining our priorities, outcomes and actions for the next 12 months, was presented and supported by all Members at the GM. Visit our website to view the AOP in detail.

Strengthening relationships with stakeholders continued the week after our meetings with Hort Connections, Australia’s premiere horticulture conference and trade show held at the Adelaide Convention Centre. The event was very well attended; hosting up to 3,000 delegates and over 200 local and global supply chain partners. I was fortunate to attend along with PHA team members Lucy Tran-Nguyen, Chris O’Connor and Stuart Burgess who provided an update on the National Fruit Fly Council in the “Demystifying Market Access Research” session. This annual event always provides the opportunity to grow our connections and learn about the latest industry research and innovations in Australia and New Zealand. With so many of our Member organisations attending, it gives PHA the opportunity to build a stronger understanding of priorities and exchange ideas on how we can partner to strengthen plant biosecurity across industries, governments and the supply chain.

In June 2022, Varroa destructor was detected in New South Wales, and next month marks the first anniversary of endorsement of the Response Plan to eradicate the pest. One of the largest plant pest eradications ever to be mounted, there are 25 Affected Parties (including all governments and 16 industries) who regularly assess response data and advise on eradication and cost feasibility. This daily response effort consists of hundreds of response staff working tirelessly to ensure eradication remains achievable. The National Management Group is scheduled to meet soon to agree on the next phase of the Response Plan and the supporting budget to achieve eradication.

Communications is a key focus for PHA and we regularly utilise a multi-channel approach to ensure we reach a broad range of stakeholders and demographics. This is why we officially joined one of the most successful social media platforms in the world by launching our Instagram page earlier this month. If you haven’t already, follow us @planthealthaust.

Another way we have been actively building awareness of plant biosecurity and developing a talent pipeline with the next generation, is through our Science internship program with the Australian National University. The internship provides students with the opportunity to gain industry experience and apply their technical skills and science training in a professional context. This year, we had the pleasure of hosting three interns with the Partnerships, Diagnostics and Surveillance and Marketing and Communications areas. It was a fantastic experience for all of us and you can learn more about their learnings and project work here.

As we commence the next financial year with a strong operational plan to guide and align our activities with our strategy, we continue to operate in a dynamic environment that includes the proposed biosecurity protection levy and reform of existing levy legislation, whilst also delivering current priorities and planning for future scenarios. We will continue to focus on strengthening Australia’s plant industries’ including their preparations and response to pest and disease introduction in the context of a deteriorating global economic environment, that will drive down resource availability and create long term impacts on prosperity.