Varroa reveals need for biosecurity boost

NSW Farmers says the federal government must force importers to pay for the biosecurity threats they create.

The calls came after authorities admitted defeat on eradicating Varroa mite after more than a year of fighting the invasive pest.

Ian McColl, NSW Farmers Biosecurity Committee chair, said the Varroa mite outbreak clearly showed the risk of exotic animal and plant pests and diseases was very real.

“We have had a practical demonstration of how difficult biosecurity control efforts can be with Varroa mite – despite best efforts, Australia now has to live with another costly biosecurity failure,” Mr McColl said.

“The really worrying thing is that we have a significant risk of Red Imported Fire Ants entering NSW from Queensland, and Australia faces the threat of Lumpy Skin Disease and Foot and Mouth Disease entering from our close neighbour, Indonesia.

“This underscores how critical detection and prevention is, we need all governments appropriately resourcing biosecurity efforts to maintain strong protections at the border.”

Australia’s changed tactics on Varroa mite were the result of discussions between industry bodies and governments under an emergency plant pest response, and while NSW Farmers did not have a role in that process, Mr McColl said he expected any decisions carefully considered current and potential impacts to agricultural production.

“Our role is to provide information to government and peak industry bodies to inform their decision making, and to represent issues of our members regarding the response,” Mr McColl said.

“Our members have been quite clear that increased biosecurity funding is essential, but it should take into account who creates the risk and who already pays.

“Taxing the farmers who are at ultimate risk of biosecurity breaches is not the way to move to improved biosecurity outcomes, especially when that tax might simply fund administrative functions of the federal department, and not increase biosecurity prevention, preparedness, or response capabilities.

“This is why NSW Farmers opposes the proposed Biosecurity Protection Levy in its current form.”

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Media Contact: Steve Mudd – 0429 011 690 | [email protected]
Date: 22 September 2023
Ref: MR/111/23