NPBS – Introduction

With many plant pests and weeds at our doorstep – ongoing investment to protect the livelihood of producers and the end-to-end supply chain has never been more important.

Plant pests and weeds are capable of damaging our plant industries, food production and natural landscapes. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 20–40 per cent of global crop production is lost each year due to plant pests[1]. These negative impacts could worsen over time and the FAO estimates highlight the need for a resilient and contemporary national plant biosecurity system.

This strategy recognises the importance of working together as a collective in providing a national framework to deliver a stronger and more resilient system. It sets the focus and strategic direction for plant biosecurity activities, and drives the way for effective collaboration and action by all participants, including governments, plant industries and the community.

Key to our success is a pathway for action that aligns efforts of stakeholders across the system and supports the demonstration of shared responsibility. This will lead to transparency in our efforts and help ensure we have the people, resources, tools and systems to address the most important priorities and effectively manage current and future biosecurity challenges.

[1] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) 2020, New standards to curb the global spread of plant pests and diseases. Available at http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/1187738/icode/

Impact of the 20102020 strategy

Activities to support the strengthening of the national plant biosecurity system were supported by the 2010-2020 National Plant Biosecurity Strategy. The 2010-2020 strategy provided a comprehensive blueprint to deliver a first-class plant biosecurity system, establishing an important foundation for continued reform and improvement.

Implementation of the 2010-2020 strategy guided significant improvements in the national plant biosecurity system. Specific improvements included[2]:

  • A range of digital resources were developed, sustained and improved to support plant biosecurity activities, providing stakeholders across the system with fast access to data and analysis of information. These resources include the Australian Plant Pest Database, AUSPestCheck™, MyPestGuide and the Pest and Disease Image Library.
  • Implementation of the National Plant Biosecurity Diagnostic Network (NPBDN) and the Plant Surveillance Network Australasia Pacific (PSNAP) has helped improve capability and capacity for diagnostics and surveillance by building connections that promote the sharing of ideas, knowledge and information.
    • The NPBDN has grown to more than 500 members across Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific nations since the network was founded in 2011.
    • The PSNAP was established in 2017 and now has more than 300 members from over 50 different organisations across the Australasia-Pacific region.
  • Annual plant biosecurity workshops have helped improve the skills, knowledge and expertise of diagnosticians and people involved in surveillance. Skills based workshops have built upon these efforts to effectively address gaps in capacity or capability across the system.
    • Over 350 NPBDN members from more than 35 different organisations have built connections and shared information at the 11 Annual Diagnosticians’ Workshops held since 2012.
    • More than 180 PSNAP members from over 30 different organisations have benefitted from attending the 3 Annual Surveillance Workshops held since 2018.
  • The increased availability of agreed National Diagnostic Protocols (NDPs) has provided diagnosticians with trusted protocols to deliver reliable diagnoses. More than 40 NDPs for plant pests have been endorsed through the Subcommittee on Plant Health Diagnostics, with over 80 NDPs under development.
  • The continued evolution of the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed has resulted in an improved agreement that provides signatories with a high level of confidence and enables a more timely, effective and efficient response to plant pest incursions.
  • The development of more than 100 contingency plans has strengthened Australia’s preparedness for exotic plant pest threats. Delivery of a modular approach to contingency plans is also helping lead to better outcomes for responses.
  • Extension programs have deepened engagement across the system by raising awareness on the importance of biosecurity and improving practices at the farm level and along the supply chain.
  • The development and implementation of the National Plant Biosecurity Diagnostic Strategy (2012-2020) and the National Plant Biosecurity Surveillance Strategy (2013-2020) has improved the coordination of plant biosecurity activities across these components of the system.
  • Industry surveillance programs, including those for bees, citrus and forestry, established under industry specific surveillance strategies, have helped provide early warning for exotic plant pests and data to support and maintain market access.
  • The establishment of the Plant Biosecurity Research Initiative has increased collaboration between research and development corporations, PHA and the Australian Government and has provided an important mechanism to better coordinate investment in biosecurity research, development, and extension.
  • Australian governments have implemented contemporary plant biosecurity legislation, regulations and consistency of regulation for trade.

[2] Figures provided as at November 2021.

Challenges

While significant activity has occurred over the last decade to strengthen Australia’s plant biosecurity system, a range of existing, emerging and growing challenges are increasing the threat of biosecurity risks.

These include factors such as globalisation, international and interstate movement, climate change and the increasing volume of goods moved[3][4][5][6]. Further compounding these challenges are several other trends including the emergence of new plant pests and new pathways (such as online retailers), the shifting geographic spread of existing plant pests and weeds, agricultural expansion and intensification, increased urbanisation, changing land uses[7] and changing trading patterns/supply chains. In conjunction with these increasing challenges and trends, there is an ongoing competition for resources across the national plant biosecurity system.

All these factors have combined to place significant pressure on the ability of participants to meet their biosecurity responsibilities, national biosecurity obligations and respond to new and emerging risks and pathways.

At the same time, access to overseas markets for primary produce is becoming harder as some trading partners place more stringent requirements on our exports while others are improving their compliance and with it their competitiveness. Consumer preferences and expectations for information on food safety and quality are driving a greater need to ensure production systems are ethical, effective and safe. Part of these expectations include a growing need to maintain Australia’s favourable biosecurity status over the next decade and into the future.

This strategy focuses on addressing these challenges over the next ten years through provision of a long‑term policy focus, coupled with a process of regular monitoring, review and reporting against the goals and actions. The strategy aims to remain agile and responsive to the changing and demanding biosecurity environment expected over the next decade.

[3] CSIRO 2014, Australia’s biosecurity future: preparing for future biological challenges, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Canberra.

[4] Grafton, Q, Mullen, J & Williams, J 2015, Australia’s agricultural future: returns, resources, and Risks, final report for the Australian Council of Learned Academics, Melbourne.

[5] Hajkowicz, S & Eady, S 2015, Rural industry futures: Megatrends impacting Australian agriculture over the coming twenty years, report prepared for the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, Canberra.

[6] Cope, R, Ross, J, Wittmann, T, Prowse T & Cassey, P 2016, Integrative analysis of the physical transport network into Australia, PLOSONE.

[7] Craik, W., Palmer, D. & Sheldrake, R. 2017, Priorities for Australia’s biosecurity system: An independent review of the capacity of the national biosecurity system and its underpinning Intergovernmental Agreement, prepared for the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Canberra, Australia. Available at www.agriculture.g.ov.au/igabreview.

Consultation and development

Development of the strategy has been informed through extensive consultation with a wide range of plant biosecurity stakeholders including:

  • plant biosecurity and environment representatives in Australian, state and territory governments
  • plant industry bodies
  • research and development corporations
  • research bodies
  • local government authorities
  • environmental groups
  • community groups and
  • growers.

The outcomes of consultation undertaken on a suite of national sub-strategies and implementation plans on preparedness, surveillance and diagnostics[8] were used to guide development of this strategy as part of a bottom-up approach. Engagement activities for the sub-strategies included workshops, online surveys, stakeholder updates and a discussion paper.

The list of organisations/groups engaged are provided in Appendix 1 – Stakeholder consultation.

[8] Through the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper, the Australian Government funded Plant Health Australia to develop the suite of sub-strategies and implementation plans to support implementation of the National Plant Biosecurity Strategy.