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Adequacy of Australia’s biosecurity measures and response preparedness, in particular with respect to foot-and-mouth disease and varroa mite

The Invasive Species Council welcomes the opportunity to provide a submission to the inquiry into the adequacy of Australia’s biosecurity measures and response preparedness. We support efforts to strengthen the national biosecurity system, with particular focus on prevention and early action to prevent detrimental impacts on the Australian environment from invasive plants, animals and diseases.

This submission will cover preparedness, elevation of environmental biosecurity based on an equivalent Appropriate Level of Protection (ALOP), implementation of strategy and review recommendations, and sustainable funding, including for biosecurity technologies and research and development (R&D) initiatives.

Additionally, the threat of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) highlights a gap in our current
preparedness for animal pathogens of concern – that of the populations of feral cloven-hoofed animals including deer, buffalo and goats. Early action to reduce the risks from these potential reservoir populations will not only provide greater certainty to industry that market access will be regained, but also will benefit the eradication and control efforts and save considerable amounts of funding and resources if done early and without time pressure of a disease outbreak. More controls and effort to eradicate these species will also benefit the Australian environment.

The adequacy of Australia’s biosecurity measures and response cannot be properly assessed or improved by considering one threat or incursion alone. Any issues identified here are symptoms of the broader threats to the system, and will strengthen Australia’s capability to respond to incursions such as FMD and varroa mite.

A significant gap in Australia’s biosecurity system is that of environmental biosecurity. Australia has made progress to address the identified gap, but environmental biosecurity preparedness still considerably lags that for primary industries. The essential mechanisms have been in place for plant and health industries for at least 10–20 years longer than for the environmental sector and the industry sectors continue to be far better resourced.

For environmental biosecurity, there is also a lack of risk assessments and pest risk analyses relevant to environmental priorities, surveillance strategies, plans and programs, diagnostics strategies and standard operating procedures for emergency responses.

Although engagement with the environment sector has considerably improved since the
appointment of the chief environmental biosecurity officer in 2018, there are no equivalent partnership arrangements and much less formal involvement of stakeholders in biosecurity arrangements.

We urge the committee to consider the questions and suggestions here, as the solutions and engagement required for threats such as FMD or outbreaks such as varroa mite must be addressed systemically, and not in isolation. However, if issues discussed here are deemed out of scope, we recommend that they be referred to the appropriate decision-making authority so they can be considered in the efforts to develop a modern, consistent and secure national biosecurity system – protecting not only high value industries, but the environmental values that are invaluable to our future.

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Save the Snowies

The NSW government is one step away from allowing aerial control of feral horses in Kosciuszko National Park. This is huge news and a crucial step for our threatened native wildlife and the fragile alpine ecosystems they call home.

Dear Project Team,

[YOUR PERSONALISED MESSAGE WILL APPEAR HERE.] 

I support the amendment to the Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan to allow our incredible National Parks staff to use aerial shooting as one method to rapidly reduce feral horse numbers. I want to see feral horse numbers urgently reduced in order to save the national park and our native wildlife that live there.

The current approach is not solving the problem. Feral horse numbers have rapidly increased in Kosciuszko National Park to around 18,000, a 30% jump in just the past 2 years. With the population so high, thousands of feral horses need to be removed annually to reduce numbers and stop our National Park becoming a horse paddock. Aerial shooting, undertaken humanely and safely by professionals using standard protocols, is the only way this can happen.

The government’s own management plan for feral horses states that ‘if undertaken in accordance with best practice, aerial shooting can have the lowest negative animal welfare impacts of all lethal control methods’.

This humane and effective practice is already used across Australia to manage hundreds of thousands of feral animals like horses, deer, pigs, and goats.

Trapping and rehoming of feral horses has been used in Kosciuszko National Park for well over a decade but has consistently failed to reduce the population, has delayed meaningful action and is expensive. There are too many feral horses in the Alps and not enough demand for rehoming for it to be relied upon for the reduction of the population.

Fertility control as a management tool is only effective for a small, geographically isolated, and accessible population of feral horses where the management outcome sought is to maintain the population at its current size. It is not a viable option to reduce the large and growing feral horse population in the vast and rugged terrain of Kosciuszko National Park.

Feral horses are trashing and trampling our sensitive alpine ecosystems and streams, causing the decline and extinction of native animals. The federal government’s Threatened Species Scientific Committee has stated that feral horses ‘may be the crucial factor that causes final extinction’ for 12 alpine species.

I recognise the sad reality that urgent and humane measures are necessary to urgently remove the horses or they will destroy the Snowies and the native wildlife that call the mountains home. I support a healthy national park where native species like the Corroboree Frog and Mountain Pygmy Possum can thrive.

Kind regards,
[Your name]
[Your email address]
[Your postcode]


Dear Project Team,

[YOUR PERSONALISED MESSAGE WILL APPEAR HERE.] 

I support the amendment to the Kosciuszko National Park Wild Horse Heritage Management Plan to allow our incredible National Parks staff to use aerial shooting as one method to rapidly reduce feral horse numbers. I want to see feral horse numbers urgently reduced in order to save the national park and our native wildlife that live there.

The current approach is not solving the problem. Feral horse numbers have rapidly increased in Kosciuszko National Park to around 18,000, a 30% jump in just the past 2 years. With the population so high, thousands of feral horses need to be removed annually to reduce numbers and stop our National Park becoming a horse paddock. Aerial shooting, undertaken humanely and safely by professionals using standard protocols, is the only way this can happen.

The government’s own management plan for feral horses states that ‘if undertaken in accordance with best practice, aerial shooting can have the lowest negative animal welfare impacts of all lethal control methods’.

This humane and effective practice is already used across Australia to manage hundreds of thousands of feral animals like horses, deer, pigs, and goats.

Trapping and rehoming of feral horses has been used in Kosciuszko National Park for well over a decade but has consistently failed to reduce the population, has delayed meaningful action and is expensive. There are too many feral horses in the Alps and not enough demand for rehoming for it to be relied upon for the reduction of the population.

Fertility control as a management tool is only effective for a small, geographically isolated, and accessible population of feral horses where the management outcome sought is to maintain the population at its current size. It is not a viable option to reduce the large and growing feral horse population in the vast and rugged terrain of Kosciuszko National Park.

Feral horses are trashing and trampling our sensitive alpine ecosystems and streams, causing the decline and extinction of native animals. The federal government’s Threatened Species Scientific Committee has stated that feral horses ‘may be the crucial factor that causes final extinction’ for 12 alpine species.

I recognise the sad reality that urgent and humane measures are necessary to urgently remove the horses or they will destroy the Snowies and the native wildlife that call the mountains home. I support a healthy national park where native species like the Corroboree Frog and Mountain Pygmy Possum can thrive.

Kind regards,
[Your name]
[Your email address]
[Your postcode]