Smoothing out the complexities of compliance

By Gabrielle Stannus

Nurseries are not alone in having to comply with mandatory laws and regulations. “As with businesses in general, there are a range of mandatory requirements imposed, centred on ensuring that a business operates in a legal and ethical manner. For the nursery industry much of these are common across the business spectrum. However, we do have some areas such as biosecurity and water management which are more specific to our sector”, says Chris O’Connor, NGIA Program Manager.

If you wish to import plants and/or plant material into Australia, familiarise yourself with the Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources’ Biosecurity Import Conditions system (BICON). BICON will help you determine whether your intended import is permitted, subject to import conditions, requires supporting documentation, requires treatment and/or needs an import permit.

To prevent the spread of pests, diseases and weeds across different areas of Australia, there are rules and regulations regarding the movement of goods between states, and even within states where biosecurity or quarantine zones have been set up to limit the spread of pests localised to that area.. Contact the relevant state and territory quarantine regulators in the destination state prior to shipment of plants.

If you are seeking to move plants or their parts or derivatives to or from Australia, you may require a permit if the specimen is listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) or is an Australian native species.

Each state and territory have its own Environment Protection Agency/Authority or equivalent protecting water, air and soil quality through the issuing of works approvals and licences and environmental assessments. Your business must normally ensure that all waste and pollution generated on-site does not leave it, e.g. noise, odour, dust and stormwater runoff.

For more information on relevant environmental laws and regulations, contact your state or territory’s relevant environmental protection authority.

Workplace Health and Safety (WHS)
Complying with Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) rules and regulations helps to keep you and your employees safe from exposure to hazards and risks resulting from work activities, e.g. storage of chemicals.

WHS legislation has essentially been harmonised across the country, with ‘model’ laws making it easier for businesses to comply with regulations. Safe Work Australia are responsible for maintaining the model WHS laws, whilst WHS regulators in the Commonwealth and in each state and territory are responsible for regulating and enforcing the laws in their jurisdictions.

For information on the operation of WHS laws in your state or territory, contact your WHS regulator.

Taxation and payroll
To help you understand your business and tax obligations, CPA Australia have published a Good Practice Checklist for Small Business, detailing a business’ regulatory requirements (refer page 14).

It can be exhausting navigating your way around payroll tax, Business Activity Statements, profit and loss statements and income tax returns. The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) offers free business templates and tools, including free workshops and webinars via its small business newsroom, helping businesses comply with tax essentials.

The Fair Work Ombudsman provides you with information about your workplace obligations. It lists the range of awards and agreements applicable to the nursery and allied industries. It also covers employee entitlements, pay, leave and ending employment.

Business compliance solutions
Farm Minder is a cloud-based farm management system which manages and plans farm operations and facilitates compliance with all legal, WHS and quality control requirements related to the storage of chemicals and the use of pesticides and animal health products. Chris says like any off the shelf software solution it may not meet all of your requirements but it is certainly a good tool to assist businesses in managing their data.

Developed specifically for the nursery industry, the Nursery Production Farm Management System includes three key programs: NIASA (Industry Best Practice) EcoHort

(Environment) and BioSecure HACCP (Biosecurity). “Each provides a systematic method of assessing and demonstrating compliance with industry, government and community expectations. It also helps to assist a business in meeting and maintaining its social licence”, says Chris.

“For example, by adopting the monitoring and management processes of BioSecure HACCP a business can pre-empt the requirements which will be imposed upon them in the advent of incursion. Interstate market access requirements can be addressed by the business itself and hence are not reliant upon government inspections for stock. This is important as stock delivery is time critical and a reduction on external reliance is invaluable in this area”, says Chris.

NB. BioSecure HACCP is the first ever approved third-party biosecurity scheme under the Queensland Biosecurity Act 2014.

Ultimate business benefits
“Compliance is a cost of doing business. However, rather than simply being an impost to business, many of these compliance areas help to facilitate the high standard of living that we enjoy in Australia and help to safeguard the impacts of business to our environment”, says Chris. The need to comply with statutory obligations can also bring quality improvements, greater efficiency, trust and brand loyalty, better risk management and competitive differentiation to your business 1 . So be proactive, become organised and seek professional advice to help you save time and money.

1. Sherbet, E 2014, ‘The Top Five Business Benefits of Compliance, Pharmaceutical Compliance Monitor, viewed 22 January 2019,