Biosecurity changes on way

Changes to biosecurity arrangements impacting on the banana industry will be made by mid-2016 as part of the State Government’s new Biosecurity Act.

The changes are part of the government’s introduction of a “General Biosecurity Obligation” (GBO) which places an obligation on all members of the community, including growers, to meet biosecurity standards.
Included is the use of a biosecurity guideline, rather than a regulation, to manage the allowable level of yellow Sigatoka.
Biosecurity Queensland (BQ) will soon start drafting the guideline document, called the Banana Biosecurity Guideline. There will be no change to
the maximum allowable level of yellow Sigatoka on banana plant leaves, which will continue to be five per cent on any one leaf in the major North Queensland banana growing region.
The new Biosecurity Act’s regulation and guideline have been the subject of extensive discussions over the past year between BQ and the Australian Banana Growers’ Council (ABGC). They must be operational by July 1, when the new Act comes into force.
Key issues are the:
  • number and location of the pest quarantine areas
  • restrictions on the number of varieties of banana plants that can be grown residentially
  • management of yellow Sigatoka.
  • As a result of the negotiations the number of Pest Quarantine Areas along the coast will reduce from six to three. The main points are:
  • the areas will be called “Biosecurity Zones”. A Northern Banana Biosecurity Zone, will surround the main Queensland production area and extend from Rollingstone in the south to just north of Hope Vale. There will also be Far Northern and Southern biosecurity zones.
  • current restrictions on the varieties of bananas that can be grown residentially will remain for the Northern Banana Biosecurity Zone and the Far Northern zone but be lifted for the Southern zone. Restrictions on the number of plants that can be grown residentially will be lifted in all three zones
  • the current five per cent threshold on yellow Sigatoka will remain but be stipulated in the new Banana Biosecurity Guideline, not in the new Regulation.

ABGC Chief Executive Officer Jim Pekin said issues concerning yellow Sigatoka (leaf spot) management had been the most significant area of negotiation between BQ and the ABGC.

“It is expected that, in day-to-day terms, growers will not experience any change to the current processes that are in place for checks on leaf spot,” Mr Pekin said.
“Yellow Sigatoka Industry Liaison Officer Louis Lardi will continue to visit every banana farm in North Queensland twice a year to provide advice to growers about the level of leaf spot on their plants.
“In those very few instances where growers repeatedly ignore this advice, the matter will be referred to Biosecurity Queensland for their action because the grower will be in breach of their General Biosecurity Obligation.
“Severe penalties can apply with fines of up to $50,000.”