By Frank Fox, Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) & Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) Biosecurity Officer

The new Queensland Biosecurity Act 2014 recognises that growers must be in a position to form a reasonable judgement when a biosecurity risk exists.  The legislation specifically lists serious pests and diseases known as Prohibited Matter and Restricted Matter to inform nurseries and allied industries of the associated risks with plant materials. The legislation also includes the concept of Carriers which are things capable of moving biosecurity matter from one host to another.

Under the new act, persons are required to report Notifiable Incidents such as unexplained deaths, symptoms or loss of vigour in plantings.  The process by which these incidents must be managed is further spelt out in the Biosecurity Regulation 2016.  For further assistance the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) maintains a Biosecurity Manual that can be found on the Biosecurity Queensland web site.  This document outlines how to uphold best biosecurity practices.

Prohibited Matter, outlined in Schedule 1 of the Act, represents serious pests and diseases not known to occur in Queensland.  Examples include Citrus Canker, Mango Pulp Weevil, Pierce’s Disease and the Tomato Potato Psyllid. Persons aware of its presence in Queensland must report it to a DAF inspector immediately.  It is illegal to deal with prohibited matter although growers are required to take reasonable measures to contain it should they find any on their property.

Restricted Matter is biosecurity matter known to be present in Queensland but under active control.  Various categories of Restricted Matter are listed in Schedule 2 of the Act.  Panama disease tropical race 4 in bananas is an example.  Persons who become aware of the presence of Category 1 or 2 Restricted Matter must advise an authorised officer as soon as possible and within 24 hours.  There are also specific provisions for dealing with other categories including the management of invasive weeds.

Biosecurity Carriers are defined in the Act as anything capable of moving biosecurity matter.  Some examples include soil and agricultural equipment as well as insects capable of harbouring pests and diseases.  Movement requirements are included in both the Biosecurity Regulation 2016 and the Biosecurity Manual.

It would be unreasonable to expect the average grower to identify the full range of pests and diseases of concern to Queensland.  For this reason, the Act includes a provision whereby persons must notify an inspector of Notifiable Incidents which include unexplained deaths and symptoms or unusual pest activity.  This legislation supports the imperative to act swiftly with respect to biosecurity risks, even when the cause is unknown.

Call 13 25 23 to report Prohibited Matter, Restricted Matter and Notifiable Incidents.

For further information on the Act, visit www.biosecurity.qld.gov.au