Media Release

Out of sight but our eyes open across the top end

8 October 2014

Most Australians would be unaware of the work that goes into protecting Australian human, animal and plant health from biosecurity threats that travel with the wind, on the tides or with the passage of people in Northern Australia.

Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, today recognised the importance of the Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy (NAQS) during his first official visit to Torres Strait.

"As part of the NAQS initiative, biosecurity officers across Northern Australia work closely with local communities every day to monitor more than 10,000 kilometres of rugged coastline, islands and coves," Minister Joyce said.

"It's enormously significant work for Australia's agricultural industries.

"Last year, for example, our biosecurity officers worked to mitigate the threats posed by high numbers of fruit fly arrivals following seasonal winds from Papua New Guinea associated with the 'wet season' monsoon.

"To put that work in perspective, an outbreak of papaya fruit fly in the Cairns region in 1995 took four years and over $34 million dollars to eradicate –  and cost to the local horticulture industry more than $100 million.

"Looking at plant health, 15 exotic plant detections were confirmed and managed in the past year alone."

Minister Joyce said prevention and early detection of exotic pests and diseases was vital to maintaining a healthy Australian agricultural industry.

"The NAQS targets pests and diseases that arrive naturally or through human activity such as recreational yachts and illegal fishing.

"The government works closely with, and shares the passion of, communities across northern Australia to protect our country from biosecurity risks and safeguard Australia's reputation as a reliable exporter of high-quality produce."

NAQS was established in 1989 to provide an early warning system for exotic pest, weed and disease detections in northern Australia and to help address unique biosecurity risks facing the region.

For more information about the NAQS programme, visit agriculture.gov.au/biosecurity/quarantine/naqs