Rise in dis­ease, pest risks to ‘brand Tas­ma­nia’

Sunday Tasmanian - - Front Page - ANNE MATHER

SNAKES, trop­i­cal fruit, fish and plants are among the il­le­gal items seized by au­thor­i­ties try­ing to keep pests and dis­ease out of Tas­ma­nia.

It comes as threats to Tas- ma­nia’s biose­cu­rity are ris­ing, with soar­ing tourist num­bers, in­creased trade and cli­mate change all plac­ing pres­sure on our lu­cra­tive sta­tus as an is­land that grows pre­mium “safe” pro­duce.

Biose­cu­rity Tas­ma­nia gen­eral man­ager Lloyd Klumpp says the task of pro­tect­ing the state is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly com­plex and record num­bers of peo­ple and goods pour­ing into the state pose added risks. “It’s about pro­tect­ing brand Tas­ma­nia – about pro­tect­ing our en­vi­ron­ment, our in­dus­tries and way of life,” he said.

THREATS to Tas­ma­nia’s biose­cu­rity are mount­ing, says the man charged with try­ing to keep pests and dis­ease out of the state.

Soar­ing tourist num­bers, in­creased trade and cli­mate change are all plac­ing pres­sure on Tas­ma­nia’s prized sta­tus as an is­land that grows pre­mium “safe” pro­duce.

Biose­cu­rity Tas­ma­nia gen­eral man­ager Lloyd Klumpp says his agency is work­ing hard to en­force the strin­gent re­quire­ments needed to pro­tect our en­vi­ron­ment and pri­mary in­dus­tries — but “zero risk” was no longer pos­si­ble.

Dr Klumpp said the state’s suc­cess in tourism and trade had brought many pos­i­tives for the econ­omy — but the record num­bers of peo­ple and goods pour­ing into the state also posed risks.

He said cruise ship ar­rivals were set to dou­ble this sea­son, to a record 130 vis­its. Flight ar­rivals had reached 22,000 a year and the TTLine was bring­ing 500 boat loads of vis­i­tors a year.

Cli­mate change also height­ened the risk of north­ern warm-cli­mate pests and dis­ease tak­ing hold in Tas­ma­nia, he said.

“We have all these chal­lenges that are in­creas­ing. We have to look at those chal­lenges and work out how to do things bet­ter,” Dr Klumpp said.

Tas­ma­nia’s is­land sta­tus, with an ex­ten­sive wa­ter bar­rier, has tra­di­tion­ally kept the

We have to recog­nise that there’s no such thing as zero risk, that oc­ca­sion­ally things will get through the bor­der. LLOYD KLUMPP, BIOSE­CU­RITY TAS­MA­NIA

state rel­a­tively free of dis­eases and pests. But the state’s closer ties with the world have nar­rowed the gap.

Farm­ers are con­cerned that more needs to be done to man­age the risks.

Tas­ma­nian Farm­ers and Gra­ziers CEO Peter Skillern said a re­view of biose­cu­rity was needed to en­sure the pro­tec­tion of our bor­ders.

He said the tomato potato psyl­lid, an in­sect pest de­tected in Western Aus­tralia, could smash Tas­ma­nia’s $400 mil­lion potato in­dus­try, while the grape phyl­lox­era in­sect was caus­ing dam­age in vine­yards in Victoria’s Yarra Val­ley.

Mr Skillern said the par­a­sitic Var­roa mites, which are in New Zealand, at­tacked bees and could se­verely im­pact Tas­ma­nia’s ca­pac­ity for pol­li­na­tion to oc­cur across a wide range of crops.

“They are sit­ting on our bor­ders . . . the only thing pro­tect­ing us is a body of wa­ter and a sound biose­cu­rity sys­tem,” he said.

“Biose­cu­rity needs a thor­ough re­view to en­sure we have the best pos­si­ble biose- cu­rity sys­tem we can pos­si­bly have.”

Dr Klumpp said the or­gan­i­sa­tion was re­view­ing its sys­tems to ad­dress the chal­lenges ahead. This in­cluded a more tar­geted ap­proach to man­ag­ing risk.

He said the days of try­ing to check every per­son and par­cel en­ter­ing the state were gone — as were ex­pec­ta­tions of zero risk.

“The old sys­tem of manda­tory in­spec­tions can’t cope with the num­bers com­ing to the state, so we have to run a risk-based sys­tem,” Dr Klumpp said.

He said the ap­proach as­sessed the like­li­hood that a per­son, par­cel or cargo load was car­ry­ing risky ma­te­rial — such as or­ganic ma­te­rial, dirt, and ma­chin­ery that came into con­tact with soil.

For ex­am­ple, a load of bi­cy­cles from cen­tral Mel­bourne would be low risk while a con­tainer of hor­ti­cul­tural pro­duce would be high.

“We nar­row down where we tar­get our assess­ments,” Dr Krumpp said.

“It means that we have to recog­nise that there’s no such thing as zero risk, that oc­ca­sion­ally things will get through the bor­der,” he said.

To man­age risk be­fore goods en­ter Tas­ma­nia, pre­bor­der assess­ments are done by in­ter­state au­thor­i­ties.

This ser­vice is also con-

ducted by Tas­ma­nian au­thor­i­ties for the state’s ex­ports, with cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of pro­duce car­ried out be­fore it leaves our shores.

Once goods ar­rive at the Tas­ma­nian bor­der — at en­try points such as ports, air­ports and mail­rooms — they are mon­i­tored and seized if nec­es­sary.

The third stage of risk man­age­ment oc­curs “post­bor­der”, with con­stant sur­veil­lance within Tas­ma­nia to de­tect the en­try of un­usual pests or dis­eases.

To man­age fruit fly, for ex­am­ple, there are 1100 traps lo­cated across the state. Tas­ma­nia’s fruit fly free sta­tus is es­ti­mated to add mil- lions of dol­lars a year to our hor­ti­cul­tural in­dus­tries.

Light traps, to at­tract in­sects, are also an im­por­tant means of de­tec­tion, with traps in the north of the state mon­i­tor­ing bugs blown south by wind across Bass Strait.

Mem­bers of the pub­lic are also an im­por­tant tool in post-bor­der sur­veil­lance.

Dr Klumpp said vig­i­lant com­mu­nity mem­bers were quick to find sus­pi­cious in­sects and other an­i­mals in the fresh pro­duce sec­tion of su­per­mar­kets.

“Every six to eight months some­one finds a green tree frog in ba­nanas from Queens­land,” Dr Klumpp said.

Gar­den­ers are also help­ful in re­port­ing un­usual crit­ters, with every pos­si­ble pest taken se­ri­ously by the Biose­cu­rity in­sect lab­o­ra­tory in Ho­bart.

Dr Jamie Davies, an en­to­mol­o­gist with the plant biose­cu­rity and di­ag­nos­tics branch, has the job of iden­ti­fy­ing bugs that have raised sus­pi­cion.

“Some­times it’s a na­tive species but some­times it’s some­thing that’s not meant to be here,” Dr Davies said.

The lab holds his­toric in­sect col­lec­tions that are more than 100 years old — with a care­fully cat­a­logued stock­pile of 150,000 records.

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