Message from the CEO – January 2024

  • Message from the CEO – January 2024 image
    Sarah Corcoran CEO of PHA

I’m looking forward to another productive year packed with projects, collaborations and partnerships (existing and new) with events designed to ensure ongoing engagement. Before looking ahead to what 2024 has in store for us, it would be remiss of me not to take the time to reflect on a few highlights from 2023.

Within our digital systems space, an additional two million records were uploaded to AUSPestCheck® bringing the total number of records in the plant tenancy to over 6.5 million. This flagship system collects, analyses, and displays plant pest surveillance data and provides users with real-time pest numbers and spread. In 2024 we will continue our focus on facilitating greater data sharing between government and industry organisations to support market access, enhance early detection and support proof of freedom.

Over the past 12 months we developed and delivered new eLearning courses to meet a range of needs including industry liaison to improve industry response readiness to plant biosecurity incidents; forest surveillance exploring the role biosecurity plays in keeping Australia’s forests healthy and an Australian Plant Pest Database course for system users. In addition, we created new content to support ‘just-in-time’ training and improve readiness and capability of our Member organisations.

In November 2023, I was invited to showcase Australia’s focus on the role of partnerships in plant biosecurity during a virtual presentation at the Canadian National Horticulture and Invasive Species Conference. As a nation we are unique on the world stage when it comes to the value we place on biosecurity.

We topped off a great year with the launch of the National Biosecurity Training Hub – Australia’s first one-stop online shop for biosecurity training developed in collaboration with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Agriculture Victoria, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, and Animal Health Australia. The Hub provides a central location and database of biosecurity training resources, reducing duplication of effort and costs associated with developing and delivering biosecurity training. Now in a single location that streamlines and facilitates national visibility of biosecurity-related training across government, industry and community, we are excited to help the Hub deliver value and continue to grow.

Our wet summer kicked off with ex-Tropical Cyclone Jasper dumping nearly 1000 mm of rain on Far North Queensland in mid-December, causing extensive damage in the region. Cleanup operations are continuing with the threat of more to come. Primary producers have felt the impacts of the deluge, with the peak industry body for sugarcane growers indicating some farms suffering crop losses as high as 60%. Reduced yields and impacts to harvesting operations of summer fruit and other plant production processes are expected for local growers. To assist the economic recovery of the region, the Queensland Government is offering disaster assistance to primary producers and the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority (QRIDA) is also hosting information sessions this month.

The eastern states also experienced prolonged wet conditions amid El Niño with the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) predicting the climate model is at, or near its peak, with the likelihood of it weakening over the coming months. Preparing your farm for severe weather events and managing the risks associated with people movement should remain top of mind during these wet conditions to reduce the risk of new pests and diseases being introduced.

Coming up in February I’ll be touching base with the AgForce Biosecurity Committee at their first meeting of the year where I’ll be providing a general overview of PHA, presenting on key projects and initiatives delivering local impact and exploring potential collaborations to benefit Queensland’s rural producers.

As we look ahead to the next 12 months, our focus on Member satisfaction remains a priority and we will continue to measure this through face-to-face consultations, submissions via our Member email address, and feedback received from PHA events.

I’m looking forward to stepping into this year and building on our achievements and partnerships that strengthen the Australian plant biosecurity system for the benefit of the economy, environment and community.