NPBSS – Strategic direction to 2031

Strategic direction to 2031

The strategy identifies six interconnected goals to achieve the vision for Australia’s plant health surveillance system to 2031. The goals and expected outcomes are:

Each goal is supported by a series of actions that are described in this section. More information on the implementation of the strategy, including performance measures, key contributors and indicative timeframes for delivery[1], is available in the National Plant Biosecurity Surveillance Strategy Implementation Plan. The implementation plan also sets out governance arrangements for the strategy along with provisions for review and reporting.

Goal 1: Stronger regional, national and international connections.

Expected outcome: A cooperative and collaborative national approach to surveillance driven by partnerships.

ACTION 1.1: Establish a shared and agreed understanding of roles and responsibilities of surveillance stakeholders.

Managing plant biosecurity risks and protecting our biosecurity status is a shared responsibility among a wide range of stakeholders. Previously, the roles and responsibilities for system participants have not been clearly understood, coordinated, or broadly consulted and agreed.

An important step in realising a shared responsibility is identifying, establishing and assigning roles and responsibilities for all surveillance stakeholders. These stakeholders include all levels of government, plant industry bodies, growers, research organisations, environmental groups, natural resource managers, supply chains and the wider community. They also include overseas trading partners and near neighbours.

Once agreed, there is a need to ensure everyone is aware of and acknowledges their roles, responsibilities and accountabilities as well as those of other system participants. This will ensure that stakeholders meet their biosecurity obligations and can effectively identify and respond to the challenges facing the system.

ACTION 1.2: Define surveillance priorities that stakeholders will work on collaboratively to achieve national goals.

Priorities for surveillance activities for plant pests and weeds are informed by a range of elements. These include Australian Government, state and territory strategies and policies, plant industry aspirations and needs, risk assessments, pathway analyses, surveillance data, trade requirements, stakeholder capabilities, diagnostics capabilities, available resources and surveillance tools, and outcomes of national or plant industry prioritisation processes.

Given the large number of potential plant pest and weed targets, along with the finite resources available for surveillance, it is important to set priorities that plant industries, government and other surveillance stakeholders will work on collectively. These priorities should be evidence-based, well defined, achievable and aligned with national and international requirements. A process for reviewing surveillance priorities should also be developed and established to ensure they remain relevant and reflect the changing knowledge of plant biosecurity risks.

The ability to prioritise surveillance activities will maximise the efficiency and effectiveness of resources deployed across the national plant health surveillance system. It also recognises that surveillance, which is risk-based and focused on agreed high priority pest targets and locations, will provide the greatest return on investment.

ACTION 1.3: Establish coordinated surveillance programs to maximise the effective detection of plant pests and weeds.

Multiple surveillance programs delivered by governments and plant industries have been established across Australia to target plant pests and weeds. While these programs are a key component of the national plant health surveillance system, they often occur largely independently of each other and would benefit from being conducted in a coordinated manner.

It is recommended that nationally coordinated surveillance programs are established for all major plant industries, and plant pests and weeds of national concern, to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Australia’s plant health surveillance system. This will maximise the detection of exotic plant pests and weeds, mitigate the risk of exotic plant pests and weeds establishing in Australia, and provide evidence to support claims of area freedom. In addition, coordination will help facilitate the exchange of information between government and plant industries to help everyone better manage biosecurity risks.

The establishment and maintenance of these programs requires partnerships across governments, industries and urban and peri-urban communities to maximise collective effort and reduce duplication of effort (Action 1.4). They should also be supported by an effective diagnostic network (Action 2.6), protocols consistent with national and international standards (Action 5.2) and an ongoing process for measuring and reporting their effectiveness (Action 6.3).

ACTION 1.4: Establish and enhance regional, national and international networks and partnerships.

A suite of activities already connects individuals and groups across the national plant health surveillance system. These include the PSNAP Surveillance Residentials, development of NSPs and surveillance programs at the regional, state and national level.

In order to support surveillance delivery, continual improvement will be needed to grow domestic and international partnerships. The ability to establish and enhance these connections within and between stakeholders identified though Action 1.1 will assist with the sharing of expertise and surveillance information as well as the coordination of surveillance activities, training, and research activities relating to plant pests and weeds. It will also help communicate surveillance outcomes and increase the awareness of plant biosecurity risks and successes.

In addition, there is scope to extend collaboration within Australia through connecting with the different sectors with similar purposes (e.g. animal and human health, biodiversity). Often similar technologies, challenges and policies are in place across these sectors, and improved communication and linkages will build networks that ensure resources are used more effectively.

ACTION 1.5: Develop and maintain a national framework for funding and coordinating surveillance activities across Australia.

Resourcing for all aspects of surveillance, and diagnostics that support identification, is an ongoing challenge and a better approach is needed to support surveillance efforts into the future.

The development of a national framework for funding and coordinating surveillance will support the delivery of surveillance activities across Australia in an integrated and consistent manner. To be effective, the framework must be able to identify where resources are best directed and allocate funding accordingly, including cost-sharing where appropriate.

The framework should identify opportunities to standardise efforts and surveillance activities across the biosecurity continuum to improve the ability to accurately triage and diagnose plant pests and weeds, and mount an appropriate response to detections.


Goal 2: Enhanced and improved capability for an effective surveillance system.

Expected outcome: Skilled people are available to support surveillance.

ACTION 2.1: Identify and address current and emerging capability gaps for people involved in surveillance.

An effective national plant health surveillance system is reliant on appropriately trained individuals and/or groups with the necessary capacity and capability to conduct surveillance activities. However, a national approach to the development and enhancement of capability of personnel involved in surveillance across the biosecurity continuum is not currently in place.

In order to ensure all people involved in surveillance are effective in their roles, there is a requirement to identify the current and emerging gaps in human capability across the national plant health surveillance system. This will contribute to the identification and design of training and professional development activities to support Australia’s plant health surveillance system (Action 2.2).

Successfully identifying these gaps and implementing measures to address them will ensure that people involved in surveillance delivery maintain an appropriate level of skills and expertise to achieve surveillance outcomes. It will also ensure an adequate number of appropriately trained people are deployed in surveillance delivery.

ACTION 2.2: Coordinate training and professional development pathways to support the ongoing needs of the national surveillance system.

The identification and design of training and professional development activities should be informed by assessing key current and emerging capability gaps across the system to ensure pathways meet the needs of the national plant health surveillance system (Action 2.1). While needs will vary across the diverse range of surveillance stakeholders including government, plant industries, growers and the wider community, training and professional development are required for:

  • improving the skills, knowledge and expertise of existing surveillance practitioners to ensure they are proficient in the required surveillance techniques and methods in order to maintain capability
  • introducing new surveillance practitioners into the system to improve capability and capacity
  • maintaining expertise, preventing the loss of institutional knowledge, and encouraging succession planning.

Training needs may range from specialist courses in pathway and data analysis, on-the-ground training for delimiting surveillance associated with emergency response or integrating surveillance for specific exotic plant pests into crop monitoring to provide data that supports area freedom claims. For the wider community, training and support material covering plant pests and weeds may be in the form of awareness material and workshops for special interest groups.

Current professional development activities include short-term residential visits, annual workshops and sponsored training courses. It is recommended that these activities are broadened over time to improve the skills, knowledge and expertise of surveillance practitioners. Pathways to introduce new surveillance practitioners should also be investigated in order to maintain an appropriate level of expertise. Options for maintaining this capability could also involve succession planning, mentoring programs and scholarships.

ACTION 2.3: Increase national surveillance biometric capability and build data literacy across surveillance practitioners.

Surveillance should be both risk and evidence-based to be most effective and efficient. This requires knowledge and skills for the wide range of statistical analyses that support surveillance including pathway assessment, survey design, establishment and spread modelling, and data analysis of surveillance results.

Specialist areas of biometrics are continually improving, and while this provides significant opportunities to  improve data analysis and modelling for surveillance, it results in a constant need to maintain and develop expertise.

In addition to specialist biometrics skills, there is an ongoing need to build data literacy for surveillance practitioners to ensure they are aware of the importance of different aspects of surveillance programs and understand the data collection that may be required. Decision makers in government and plant industries also require levels of data and surveillance terminology literacy to ensure that they understand components of surveillance programs and can make informed decisions on surveillance outcomes.

ACTION 2.4: Develop communication and engagement mechanisms to increase stakeholder awareness and uptake of surveillance activities.

A focus on improving communication and engagement is essential to ensure all surveillance stakeholders across the biosecurity continuum have the knowledge, skills, motivation and resources they require to deliver positive outcomes.

In order to be effective, the mechanisms used should be appropriate to the communication and information needs of the different stakeholder groups. This includes governments, plant industries, growers and the wider community, especially Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse populations. Information should also be easily accessible to be obtained in the right format at the right time to meet stakeholder needs.

This will improve the effectiveness of engagement activities and help create longer-term and self-sustaining surveillance programs. It will also help develop a greater awareness of plant biosecurity risks and successes, stimulate behavioural change and empower community participation in the investigation and reporting of plant pests and weeds.

ACTION 2.5: Establish and maintain diagnostic skills, expertise and resources to support surveillance.

While the skills, expertise and knowledge of plant pest diagnosticians have increased through implementation of the National Plant Biosecurity Diagnostic Strategy (2012-2020), there is a constant need to develop and maintain these skill sets to support surveillance activities into the future.

For plant pests, implementation of the National Plant Biosecurity Diagnostic Strategy (2021-2031) will largely deliver on this action. The strategy addresses the following points:

  • national and international diagnostic connections
  • expertise required to enable the delivery of world class plant pest diagnostics
  • innovative tools, technologies and approaches for improved diagnostics
  • appropriate, sustainable and coordinated resourcing to support the diagnostic system
  • systems, policies and infrastructure to deliver reliable diagnoses
  • data analytics to inform biosecurity decision making.

In the case of weeds, as with other plant health disciplines, there is a need to address the declining supply of specialists in botanical diagnostics. Continuous efforts are also needed to improve engagement with herbaria across the country and overseas taxonomic experts to ensure the prompt diagnosis and reporting of weeds.


Goal 3: Barriers to surveillance and reporting identified and removed.

Expected outcome: Improved awareness of biosecurity risks and participation in surveillance by plant industries, environmental groups and the community.

ACTION 3.1: Improve the protection and support for stakeholders reporting plant pests and weeds.

There are several potential barriers that can impact the ability of surveillance stakeholders to detect and report plant pests and weeds. Current barriers include a lack of awareness about new plant pests and weeds and the mechanisms for reporting, limited access to tools for surveillance or for capturing information on presence or absence and poor understanding or fear of the consequences of reporting new plant pests.

Given the importance of early identification and reporting to successful eradication, there is a need to minimise these barriers and establish incentives for reporting.  Opportunities may include protection and support for stakeholders such as growers or staff members reporting plant pests, tools to assist with reporting plant pests and weeds, and a focus on surveillance and reporting by environmental groups and urban and peri-urban communities.

The range of solutions developed will help strengthen the knowledge, attitudes and practices of people involved in surveillance. Information captured as part of these enhanced reporting activities will also play a key role in supporting national and international market access, identifying and planning surveillance activities and tracking surveillance activities across Australia.

ACTION 3.2: Establish and promote initiatives to improve surveillance for exotic and regionalised plant pests and weeds in urban and peri-urban areas.

Urban and peri-urban areas, as well as the environment, can be high-risk entry and establishment pathways for plant pests and weeds. , However, general surveillance in these areas can be a challenge to initiate and maintain.

Initiatives focused on members of the community/businesses that are most interested in plants and plant biosecurity are most likely to provide the best opportunities to improve general surveillance in urban and peri-urban areas and the environment. Target audiences for these initiatives could include community gardens, environmental groups, garden clubs, school aged children, government staff, researchers and members of regional communities reliant on agriculture or horticultural production.

In order for the initiatives to be effective, participants need to be provided with training (Action 2.2), materials (Action 2.4) and tools (Action 4.2) that support detection and reporting of suspect plant pests and weeds in urban and peri-urban areas as well as the environment. This will help provide a targeted message to promote the idea of a shared responsibility and create sentinels for surveillance activities.

ACTION 3.3: Establish mechanisms to integrate surveillance for priority plant pests into existing monitoring practices and systems.

Improvements to the plant biosecurity system will require integration of specific surveillance and general surveillance into existing plant pest monitoring activities, which when coupled with support for progressive improvement, will provide the best likelihood of establishing partnerships between a range of stakeholders.

Within plant industries, surveillance in the form of crop monitoring for established plant pests is routinely undertaken in many businesses to inform management decisions, or surveillance/assessment to meet domestic or export protocols. Identification of mechanisms to include surveillance for exotic plant pests and, where necessary, capture this information, will assist improve surveillance outcomes that could be used to support trade or early detection of new plant pests. These mechanisms will need to identify the value proposition for individual businesses in conducting surveillance and establish agreements for data sharing.

For governments and research organisations, integration of surveillance for exotic plant pests may be by mechanisms such as inclusion of pest targets in pest monitoring activities, or addition of exotic plant pest targets in diagnostic tests being run for established plant pests.


Goal 4: Increased adoption of innovative tools, technologies and approaches.

Expected outcome: More effective technologies and practices to detect plant pests and weeds.

ACTION 4.1: Develop and implement a framework to assess the suitability of tools, technologies and approaches for the national surveillance system.

New tools, technologies and approaches are constantly being developed to improve the conduct of surveillance activities and the collection of surveillance data. Existing tools, technologies and approaches are also being regularly being used in new and innovative ways.

A mechanism to assess the suitability of tools, technologies and approaches for the national surveillance system, and prioritise investment to address gaps, is not currently available. Through the development of a monitoring and evaluation framework, end users will be able to assess the appropriateness of current and emerging technologies in a consistent manner to ensure their ongoing validity, accuracy and reliability. This could enhance confidence in their use and allow barriers to the uptake of new technologies to be identified and further explored.

As part of this approach, there is a requirement to determine a process to ensure the frequency of the evaluations keep pace with advances in technology. There is also a need for the results of any evaluations to be clearly communicated through the PSNAP and other fora in a timely manner to ensure the capabilities and limits of these technologies are clearly understood across the system.

ACTION 4.2: Identify and implement new tools, technologies and approaches to improve the detectability of plant pests and weeds.

The continuous improvement of tools, technologies and approaches is necessary to capture high quality and quantifiable evidence of plant pests and weeds. This is particularly important for surveillance given the size of Australia and our relatively sparse population, and the number of crops/plant types, environments and potential targets that must be addressed.

The development of innovative tools such as smart traps and sensors and improvements to diagnostic methods (Action 3.3) will improve the efficiency of surveillance efforts, particularly across remote locations. It is recommended that the application of these tools, technologies and approaches is assessed against the framework developed in Action 4.1 and supported in surveillance programs for plant pests and weeds (Action 1.3).

It will be important to foster the relationships with stakeholders including research organisations, universities, and state and territory agencies to ensure research efforts are coordinated and evaluated effectively (Action 1.4). For weeds, fostering strong working and reporting relationships with national and state herbaria will be crucial to achieving positive outcomes.

ACTION 4.3: Identify, assess and promote laboratory and in-field diagnostic methods to support surveillance.

While morphology continues to play a critical role in the identification of specimens, advances in technology over the past decade have facilitated the development of a range of laboratory and in-field diagnostic methods.

There is no common approach available at present to identify and assess the adequacy of these methods, so a process involving surveillance and diagnostic personnel needs to be developed to help inform decision making. It is recommended that the process developed complements Action 4.1 and considers the overall costs and benefits associated with current and emerging methods. Through the PSNAP, the results will be assessed and reviewed with the adoption of suitable methods via inclusion in current and future protocols.

Improvements in these areas will generate potential efficiencies for both surveillance and diagnostics. It will enable more samples to be surveyed more efficiently without overwhelming the dependency on human and physical resources of diagnostic laboratories. It will also make surveillance activities more effective through providing increased confidence, greater capacity and earlier feedback on outcomes.


Goal 5: Risk-based surveillance systems and processes developed and maintained.

Expected outcome: Greater confidence in the information generated from surveillance activities

ACTION 5.1: Establish a framework to identify priority plant pests, weeds, commodities and conveyances, and high-risk areas for surveillance.

The identification of priority plant pests, weeds, high-risk pathways, risk mitigation and return on investment are key to developing risk-based surveillance programs. Pest risk analyses, pathway analyses and response planning assist with the identification and management of the risks posed by a plant pest or weed to Australia’s environment, plant industries and economy.

A framework should be developed to identify priority plant pests, weeds, risk pathways, and high risk areas where plant pest surveillance will provide value to market access, containment and eradication. The framework should also provide guidance on the planning and prioritisation of surveillance activities and resources and assist with the selection of surveillance methods for each component.

ACTION 5.2: Develop, update and endorse National Surveillance Protocols for priority and emerging plant pests.

NSPs provide a national standard for surveillance for target pests or pest groups. While a number of NSPs were developed and endorsed through implementation of the 20132020 strategy, the majority of priority plant pests still do not have a draft or endorsed NSP.

Efforts to improve the coverage of NSPs should focus on the development of new protocols for both priority and emerging plant pests and weeds as well as the review and verification of existing drafts. The development of NSPs needs to be prioritised to critical gaps and high-risk plant biosecurity threats, in combination with effectively using available established and published information to gain efficiencies in development.

The continued development and endorsement of NSPs will promote consistency in surveillance efforts across governments and plant industries. It will also ensure NSPs are available for use as the basis for national surveillance plans to support surveillance conducted under national programs (Action 1.3).

ACTION 5.3: Develop nationally agreed guidelines to support surveillance design and analysis during and following emergency responses to plant pest incursions.

There is a need to provide clear guidance to support the design and analysis of surveillance efforts both during and following emergency responses to plant pest incursions.

The development of national guidelines for these surveillance processes will help improve the understanding of stakeholders on requirements and ensure a more consistent approach to surveillance efforts. The guidelines should be aligned with nationally agreed standards/protocols and international requirements. They should also be revised and updated as required to ensure they are accurate and up-to-date.


Goal 6: Improved information standards, analyses and infrastructure.

Expected outcome: Robust and credible information on Australia’s plant health and plant pest status.

ACTION 6.1: Implement and maintain an interoperable and integrated national surveillance information management system to collate, share and analyse surveillance data.

Surveillance data on plant pests and weeds has traditionally been held in a number of systems across government, industries and non government organisations. These range from resources such as AUSPestCheck™ and MyPestGuide through to the Biosecurity Portal and the PSNAP website.

While significant progress in collection and collation of data has been made through implementation of the 2013-2020 strategy, the lack of integration and interoperability between data collection systems remains an issue. Enhancements in these areas will help provide consistency in collation and visualisation of data across a range of programs and systems, and contribute to the evidence required when making official claims around Australia’s pest status. It will also play a key role to support the development of partnerships to guide decision making at the regional, state and national level.

In order to improve the connectivity of the different information management systems, there is a requirement to develop an approach to address issues with privacy and confidentiality that can restrict the sharing of information. One option could involve agreements by which signatory parties can contribute and receive access to data on an ongoing, trusted and confidential basis.

ACTION 6.2: Evaluate and enhance the quality of general surveillance data captured for the national surveillance system.

General surveillance activities for plant pests and weeds are increasingly being undertaken by a wide range of stakeholders such as growers, land managers, agronomists, community groups, researchers, government staff and members of the general public. While these activities offer several potential benefits, they are not always conducted in a consistent or coordinated manner and the quality of the data generated can be variable.

Opportunities to maximise the quality of data generated from general surveillance activities should be investigated to ensure optimum value from the data collected. Options may include creating a process for evaluating existing and potential data sets and sources provided by plant industries and the community or developing agreed resources such as guidelines or standards for general surveillance. It could also include the use of technologies that enable reliable detections (Action 4.2).

Maximising the quality and reliability of this surveillance information will help realise the full benefits of general surveillance activities. It will also provide an opportunity for plant industry and community data to be formally recognised and used to complement national surveillance programs and support both domestic and international market access.

ACTION 6.3: Develop and implement a process for measuring and reporting the effectiveness of surveillance programs.

Within Australia, there are multiple surveillance programs in operation each year across a range of industries that target plant pests and weeds. However, there is currently no process in place for monitoring and evaluating their effectiveness.

An ongoing process for measuring the effectiveness of surveillance programs will ensure the programs established through Action 1.3 remain reliable and credible to stakeholders. The frequency of any evaluations undertaken as part of this process should be appropriate to ensure the activities are being performed correctly and remain appropriate to meet the objectives of the program.

It is recommended that mechanisms for reporting are also developed to ensure accountability, improve performance and provide information on emerging issues. There is also a need to identify and establish a clear governance structure to manage the process for communication, implementation and ensure that reporting obligations are met.

[1] All timeframes are indicative and should not preclude the commencement of any actions before the date set out in the implementation plan.