From the Experts

Government employees must respect on-farm biosecurity

By Wayne Johnston

Not all biosecurity threats are external.

Sadly, over many decades Tasmanian has had successive incursions by a range of pests, weeds and diseases. Many of these have become part of the landscape.

And while it is not feasible economically, or even in a technological sense, to eradicate these, we should be looking to manage them.

This is an indictment on our history but it is one that we need to deal with.

We need to look at those pests, weeds and diseases that have established themselves in Tasmania, and on an individual farm basis we need to be aware of the mechanisms by which they may gain a toehold.

While gorse, for example, is widespread with significant incursions on Crown land farmers need to ensure we need to ensure that weeds such as this do not infest our own land. A

ll farmers need to understand the characteristics of exotic diseases, what weed species look like, and be vigilant for animals that are not native to Tasmania.

But incursions on farms can occur in a variety of ways, not all of which are in the control of the farmer. We have several government businesses that regularly come on farm, which appear to have no respect for, or understanding of, biosecurity.

Whether it be reading water meters, electricity meters or undertaking valuations, they appear to be oblivious to the fact that, as they move from farm to farm they can, and do on occasions, become the vector for the spread of disease and pests.

The TFGA calls for these organisations and employees to not only undergo biosecurity training, but to adhere to biosecurity regimes. If this requires footbaths and vehicle wash downs, or other biosecurity measures then so be it.

It will only be a matter of time before one of these organisations has to address the legal ramifications when it is proven that they have infected a farm.

The TFGA will continue to demand the highest standards of biosecurity in Tasmania. We need a system that is robust, transparent, consistent and science-based.

Anything less is unacceptable.

• Wayne Johnston is President of the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association.