Underwater drones included in beefed up biosecurity measures

Beef Central, 29/06/2018

Underwater sonar drones to check for pests on the underside of ships and x-ray guns to scan more passenger baggage more quickly at airports are among new measures the Australian Government is funding to beef up biosecurity protections.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Little Proud today announded the allocation of $137.8 million for further, new biosecurity investment over five years.

A $25.2 million Biosecurity Innovation Program will invest in smart new technology, such as underwater sonar drones to check for pests on the underside of ships and x-ray guns to scan more passenger baggage more quickly at airports. Electronic sensors in sea containers will pick up intruding insects through sound and smell.

A further $36.5 million will be allocated for a team of biosecurity analytics specialists to help inform authorities which passengers, countries and imports are likely to bring in pests and diseases.

“Our data and analytics will also tell us when pests are extending their range in other countries which could heighten our exposure to them,” Mr Littleproud said.

The Indigenous Biosecurity Rangers program will be made ongoing with $33.5 million over the next five years to employ 69 groups of Indigenous Rangers on our 10,000 km of northern Australian coastline.

“These rangers are a frontline defence for our farming and environment – keeping out invading pests and diseases. The amount includes training for an additional 13 Torres Strait Islander groups.

“The Rangers access remote areas to conduct animal disease samples, insect trapping and plant diseases monitoring and are now using drones to assist with plant surveillance work.

“We have set aside $35 million in contingency funding, ready to go if we do face an incursion we need to stamp out.”

Another $7.6 million over five years will establish and appoint an ongoing Environmental Biosecurity Protection Officer and staff within the Department of Agriculture.

This officer and his or her staff would prepare plans and invest in projects to keep out environmental threats including the Asian black spined toad, which is similar to the cane toad.

This follows $145.9 million of new funding allocated to biosecurity investment over five years in the recent budget, which included $107.8 million for:

  • Enhanced assurance and verification activities to enhance enforcement of our strict standards
  • Monitoring pests and diseases overseas so we can reduce the risk of them getting to Australia
  • More surveillance, monitoring and response around ports
  • Keeping our vaccine bank ready for the risk of foot and mouth disease
  • Funding the Australian Animal Health Laboratory and its vital testing for exotic pests and diseases.

“We also allocated $18.1 million for more boots on the ground at our international ports over five years, with around 35 extra officers inspecting passengers’ baggage and performing other tasks,” Mr Littleproud said.

“I look forward to working with my state and territory counterparts to finalise a new Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity (IGAB) by late 2018.”

Source: Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources


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