PHA Board Meeting 112 Communique

  • PHA Board Meeting 112 Communique image

The Plant Health Australia (PHA) Board travelled to the Northern Territory (NT) and convened for PHA Board Meeting (BM) 112 from 19-20 September 2023.

Hosted in the offices of the Northern Australia Development Office (NADO) in Darwin, the agenda for BM112 included discussion of national and organisational strategy, PHA finance, budgeting and related policy, a review of corporate risk, policy and auditing, discussion of PHA membership applications, and preparation for the PHA Annual General Meeting and Plant Industry Forum.

Also in attendance by invitation of the Board were PHA’s Chief Executive Officer Sarah Corcoran, General Manager (Partnerships & Innovation) Dr Lucy Tran-Nguyen, Management Accountant Somania Dahal, and Chief Operating Officer Jessica Arnold.

During BM 112, the Board’s discussion of matters of special importance to the company and its Members included:

  • Discussion of the latest PHA EPPRD (Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed) Management and Compliance Report, noting PHA’s compliance with its obligations and updates on the varroa mite and polyphagous shot hole borer responses
  • Discussion of funding arrangements for the National Plant Biosecurity Strategy and resourcing required to maintain agreed governance and reporting arrangements
  • Review of PHA finances and budgeting, including review and acceptance of monthly and annual financial reports, a review of Director’s fees, approving changes to the PHA Reserves Policy, and congratulating the PHA Finance team on a successful external audit
  • Welcoming the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) as an Associate member, effective 1 October 2023
  • Receiving an update on PHA’s involvement in the Plant Biosecurity Research Initiative (PBRI) and the progress of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the PBRI
  • And thanking outgoing Directors Mr Steve McCutcheon, Mr Robert Prince and Dr Joanne Daly for their service to the Board and company, and especially Mr McCutcheon for his service as Chairperson for the past six years.

While attending BM112, the Board was also able to visit key sites and facilities in the region to better understand biosecurity practices and contemporary research and advancements in the field.

On Wednesday 20 September, the Board visited Darwin Fruit Farm to understand how to successfully grow bananas in TR4 Panama-affected soil, as well as how growers continue to supply the Territory with consistent commercial quantities of bananas year-round.

The Board then visited the Coastal Plains Research Station, where they were provided a tour of the facility and a briefing on the joint initiatives underway by NT Department of Industries, Tourism and Trade (DITT) staff.  These included active trials of commodities such as native rice, ginger, dragon fruit, agave, finger limes, vanilla, jackfruit and rambutan, as well as disease management trials on corn.

The Board also visited the new facilities at Berrimah Science Precinct, including a state-of-the-art molecular laboratory and new insectary and grow house. Plans for the precinct’s development were presented, including a Science Services building, which will provide additional labs for functions such as entomology, virology, water services and environmental DNA, and new office accommodation, which will see a cohabitation of staff from NT DITT and the Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy (NAQS).

On Thursday 21 September, the Board visited Darwin Aquaculture Centre where they learnt about the research being undertaken with black jewfish and black lip rock oysters, both of which are showing promise as ideal aquaculture species. Finally, they received presentations from NT DITT and NAQS on the current responses to Browsing Ant and Banana Freckle, as well as an overview on their projects on eDNA, Insect ID for Bushfoods, eNose, and the Indigenous Ranger Biosecurity Program.

Overall, BM112 was a varied and stimulating experience for all in attendance. BM113 will be held at the PHA offices in Canberra on 30 November 2023, and follows the PHA meetings being held on 28-29 November 2023, including the Plant Industry and Government Forums, the Members and EPPRD meetings and the 2023 Annual General Meeting where it is expected a number of new Board Directors will be appointed.