Today’s announcement by federal agriculture minister David Littleproud to establish an office of environmental biosecurity will better prepare Australia to prevent and respond to new harmful pest, weed and disease invasions.
The decision was announced today as part of a $138 million boost in investment for national biosecurity, including $7.6 million over five years to establish the office, headed by an Environmental Biosecurity Protection Officer, within the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.
“This much-needed focus on environmental biosecurity will go a long way towards equalising the treatment of the environment in our national biosecurity system,” Invasive Species Council CEO Andrew Cox said.
“Australia suffers from a devastating legacy of feral cats, foxes, weeds and most recently myrtle rust. Every year at least 20 new potential weeds spread into the wild while numerous new feral animals, invasive fish, ants and exotic diseases of native plants and animals are discovered.
“This new focus will drive much-needed work to identify the most damaging pests that threaten to invade Australia in the future, put prevention plans in place and prepare the nation to respond if they do arrive.”
State and federal governments have already invested close to $1 billion combating red fire ants.
The fungus myrtle rust, first detected in Australia eight years ago, continues to devastate one of our largest plant families, which includes eucalypts, melaleucas and lilli pillies. It is likely to make extinct in the wild a number of native plant species.
The new Environmental Biosecurity Protection Officer will complement existing positions that focus on industry biosecurity and human health: the Chief Veterinary Officer, the Chief Plant Protection Officer and the Chief Health Officer.
Other important initiatives in the announcement include:
- $33.5 million over five years for 69 Indigenous biosecurity rangers in northern Australia, making this program permanent.
- $25.2 million over five years for a biosecurity innovation program that will support strategic research and development, including into environmental biosecurity.
- $36.5 million for improved biosecurity analytics.
- $35 million in contingency funding for new incursions.