New Biosecurity Act planned for NSW

New South Wales growers were recently asked for their feedback on the proposed new Biosecurity Act 2015, which comes into effect in 2017, replacing 14 separate Acts.

Initial consultation with growers sought feedback on present and future risks to the industry and how we can do it better and smarter in the future.

The new Act aims to improve how biosecurity is managed in NSW.

It replaces the Plant Diseases Act 1924, and it is claimed, will provide greater opportunity and flexibility to manage biosecurity risks in the banana industry.

The Act introduces the concept of shared responsibility through the General Biosecurity Duty – a notion that everyone has a role to play in managing biosecurity risks.

New regulations, policies and procedures spelling out how New South Wales manages biosecurity risks are being developed before the Act comes into effect in 2017.

So what’s changing?

In an effort to help better contain Bunchy Top, a Control Order and General Biosecurity Duty will replace the current ‘Banana Protected Area’.

It will be monitored and the Eradication Zone can be modified depending on the status and location of the disease.

Management of Panama disease endemic strains will be managed via the General Biosecurity Duty.

Recent studies have shown that good farm biosecurity practices such as the ‘Come clean go clean’ program adopted by the NSW cotton industry, have been effective in minimising the spread and impact of diseases such as Fusarium sp.

To make it all work it is vital that industry monitors the movement of plants, machinery and people on their properties. Bunchy Top, known to occur in the Tweed, Byron and Lismore local government areas, will fall under the Eradication Zone.

It is currently proposed to include these LGAs and the adjoining LGA of Ballina in the Eradication Zone.

The Eradication Zone will regulate the movement of planting material into, within and out of the Eradication Zone.

Potential carriers of Banana Freckle, Panama disease tropical race 4 and Bunchy Top into NSW will be managed via the General Biosecurity Duty with Mandatory Measures.

Is this reducing industry protection Bunchy Top?

Successive eradication programs funded by the Australian Banana Growers Council, and now Horticulture Innovation Australia and supported by the Department of Primary Industries has reduced the incidence of Bunchy Top infections in NSW to historically low levels.

The Department says it will continue supporting the industry’s effort to eradicate Bunchy Top in the areas where possible.

These controls will support the eradication of Bunchy Top by focussing efforts on the affected areas while providing greater flexibility and opportunities for those areas outside the Eradication Zone.

Areas outside the Eradication Zone that are free of Bunchy Top will be protected via;

• restrictions on the movement of banana plant material into NSW

• prohibiting movement of plant material out of the Eradication Zone

• Control Orders requiring the notification of Bunchy Top infections across NSW.

What next?

Public consultation on the draft Regulation and Regulatory Impact Statement is planned for late this year and growers are encouraged to have their say in this process.

Further information, including a supplementary discussion paper, is available at

Growers Comments

Paul Shoker, Coffs Harbour

“There are lot of abandoned plantations in the area, possibly harbouring diseases and there doesn’t seem to be much effort to get in and sort it out. For local growers committed to the industry, it really makes their job harder because there seems to be no real desire to clean up abandoned plantations. I feel the permit system needs to be maintained because it helps us know what’s going on in the area in terms of new plantings.”

Stephen Spear, Nambucca

“It’s not good. They are going to do away with the permit system outside the Bunchy Top area. It means anyone can bring suckers that don’t come from the Bunchy Top area into our area. So we won’t know where the suckers come from. Plus the Department has cut back on the number of inspectors and the whole inspection regime is weaker. We used to have six inspectors in the region when I started in the industry some 35 years ago, now we don’t. We are in an area free of Bunchy Top and Panama Race 1 and I think there should be more Government effort to keep it that way.”

David Pike, Coffs Harbour

“The big issue is that biosecurity is expensive for Government and not possible for small growers to do it alone. With the reduction in Government support the little growers are getting hit by this and the local BGA’s are not in a position to really take on biosecurity either. It’s a big problem.”