Rise in disease, pest risks to ‘brand Tasmania’
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.