National forum focuses on protecting forests


On 31 October 2019, senior representatives from the Australian Government, state governments, and forest sector met in Melbourne to discuss a proposed National Forest Pest Surveillance Program.

All parties attending agreed there was need for a national program to mitigate the risks posed by exotic forest pests to Australia’s native forests, plantations and urban trees.

While Australia has a robust biosecurity system, the ever-growing movement of people and goods across the world has seen a regular stream of exotic forest pests enter and establish in Australia.

Surveillance of our forests is vital for early detection of new and emerging threats. Through early detection, the chance of eradicating exotic forest pests is increased.

At the meeting, attendees were presented with a draft Operational Plan and a draft Partnership Agreement for the national program. The program encompasses a comprehensive set of coordinated post-border surveillance activities including high-risk site surveillance at points of entry. It also includes stakeholder surveillance in urban and peri-urban areas where exotic forest pests are likely to first enter and establish.

Attendees agreed to work with the National Forest Biosecurity Surveillance Group – the steering group representing major stakeholders – and the National Forest Biosecurity Coordinator to finalise the details of the program and its agreed partnership arrangements over 2019–20.

While the resource constraints and substantial amount of biosecurity activities already undertaken by the Australian Government and state agencies was acknowledged, there was a commitment to explore opportunities that may allow government parties to undertake or provide support to a program. Forest sector representatives also indicated their interest in supporting a national program on an equitable basis.

Further, all parties agreed that over the longer term, an increase in participation in the program from a broader range of beneficiary stakeholders would be desirable. These stakeholders could contribute directly though funding or by actively participating in surveillance activities.

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Acknowledgement: This initiative is supported through a funding partnership between the Department of Agriculture and the Australian Forest Products Association.