Message from the CEO

January 23, 2023

At Plant Health Australia (PHA), we’ve started the year with a calendar full of exciting projects, collaborations and events. Of note in the first six months is the Plant Surveillance Network Australasia-Pacific’s National Forest Pest Surveillance webinar and evokeAg (February) Northern Australia Food Futures Conference (May), Hort Connections (June) and the National Fruit Fly Symposium (July). This year, April and May will be dedicated to increasing awareness and reporting of bee pests via a national Bee Pest Blitz campaign which will be run throughout these two months.

It has been another wet start to the year with the third consecutive year of La Niña causing widespread rain and flooding in both Queensland (QLD) and Western Australia (WA) with growers and pastoralists doing it tough. The prolonged rain and flooding not only causes damage to crops, but also increases the risk of unwanted pests and diseases. In WA, the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements has been activated to help those within disaster affected communities while in QLD the Agriculture Disaster Impact Survey seeks information on properties affected by severe weather events to inform the process for activation of disaster recovery assistance. Building resilience in both floods and drought is key to a profitable agriculture industry and grant applications are currently open to support innovative and experimental farming methods to increase drought resilience.

Each year begins with reporting on our achievements in the past six months and developing our next Annual Operational Plan (AOP) as key priorities. Development of the Mid-Year Performance Report, which tracks our progress against the current AOP has commenced with the final report scheduled for release in March. Ongoing consultations with our Members on operational priorities will inform the 2023-24 AOP, with our AOP webinar scheduled for Thursday 30 March.

With a new year often comes a career change and Dr Mila Bristow, General Manager, Partnerships and Innovation, will be leaving PHA in mid-February to join Hort Innovation in the newly created role of General Manager, Trade and Biosecurity Research and Development in. Mila has played a key role in providing strategic direction and leadership within PHA, brokering government-partnered programs, leading the National Fruit Fly Council (NFFC), and establishing new programs. We are delighted that we will continue to work with her on key biosecurity projects in future. Recruitment for a new General Manager has commenced with applications closing on 13 February 2023. This month we also welcomed Richard Hughes as the Learning and Development Manager in our Emergency Response team.

We would like to congratulate Simon Smith, President of Northern Territory Farmers, who was recently reappointed to the Greenlife Industry Australia’s Board of Directors.  In another change of guard, Dr Rachel Chay has been appointed as Malcolm Letts successor in the role of Deputy Director-General, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and Chief Biosecurity Officer at Biosecurity Queensland. PHA would like to thank Malcolm for his commitment and significant contribution to Queensland’s and Australia’s biosecurity system and wish him all the very best in his future endeavours.

I look forward to the next 12 months and to strengthening those partnerships that will continue to build a strong and resilient plant biosecurity system.