National plant biosecurity effort shifts to next gear

April 28, 2017

Off the back the nation’s plant Research and Development Corporations (RDCs) announcing they would unite efforts to strengthen Australian plant biosecurity last month, the partnership has appointed a Chair, implemented a management plan and is in the process of recruiting a program director to oversee operations of the new initiative.

The group – comprising Wine Australia; Forest Wood Products Australia; Cotton Research and Development Corporation; Grains Research and Development Corporation; Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation; Sugar Research Australia and Horticulture Innovation Australia – elected Plant Health Australia chief executive Greg Fraser as Chair.

John Lloyd, chief executive of lead plant biosecurity RDC Horticulture Innovation Australia, said the move marked the next step in creating a more efficient and effective plant biosecurity network that addresses investment gaps.

“The new stronger plant biosecurity approach is taking shape. Our efforts have been shaped by the advice of an independent expert after an examination of our current biosecurity investment activities and how they are prioritised,” he said.

“We have consulted with industry and have now appointed a Chair to ensure the partnership runs smoothly and resource priorities are better met. A program director is also coming on-board to oversee the finer details of the initiative.

“The next step is to get on with the job of determining a list of key threats to Australian food and fibre products – based on industry and government advice and research conducted so far.”

The Chair, Greg Fraser, said this collaborative approach is a step change approach utilising a more contemporary investment model that will safeguard the future of our food and fibre industries.

“Plant biosecurity in Australia has become highly reactive and fragmented in recent years, largely because there are many unconnected players. Through this initiative, the seven plant RDCs will provide an environment for better coordination and action,” he said.

“As Chair of this cross-sectoral biosecurity partnership, my sole focus will be bringing all of these stakeholders together to ensure they are applying their respective skills and resources in the best possible manner. This initiative is a first in Australian biosecurity history.”

The director position is expected to be filled in the coming weeks with a wide selection of applicants being considered from Australia and abroad.

In the meantime, Mr Fraser and representatives from the seven plant agencies are compiling a list of funding priorities and developing their approach to attract additional research investment to bolster the nation’s biosecurity approach.