Protecting our industry from the impact of biosecurity incursions remains a high priority for Greenlife Industry Australia (GIA). Recent events in Sydney and Western Australia show that we must remain vigilant if we are to prevent the spread of serious pest and disease throughout our industry.
Last week I wrote to Minister Littleproud, Federal Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, about a recent interception at the Sydney Gateway Facility. Biosecurity officers had intercepted a mail parcel with two live rooted rose plants, which are known hosts of Australia’s top plant disease threats including Sudden oak death (Phytophthora ramorum) and Xylella fastidiosa. If either of these diseases were to arrive in Australia, our horticulture and ornamental industry would be devastated, not to mention our native species and forestry. This is exactly the sort of scenario I described to the Minister in our meeting earlier this year. We will continue our representations to the Federal Government as these threats are continuing to arrive with monotonous regularity.
You would have been notified recently that the Western Australia Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) was responding to the detection of an exotic beetle, Polyphagous shot-hole borer (Euwallacea fornicatus), in a 30-year-old backyard maple tree in East Fremantle. Polyphagous shot-hole borer is a tiny beetle about 2 mm in length that bores into living trees, which can result in tree death. This borer is considered both an agricultural and environmental pest with more than 400 known host species including horticulture production, native and amenity trees. This is the first time that Polyphagous shot-hole borer has been detected in Australia.
DPIRD is conducting further surveillance in the East Fremantle and Fremantle areas to determine the Polyphagous shot-hole borer’s spread. DPIRD is also working closely with the local plant industries, including GIA and Nursery & Garden Industry Western Australia (NGIWA), councils and the community to conduct the surveillance and tracing activities. If the borer spreads beyond urban amenity trees, it could impact the production nursery, fruit and nut tree industries, as well as the forestry industry. In South Africa where the borer is present, the removal and treatment of dead trees in urban areas has caused significant economic impacts. Further evaluation on its spread will be undertaken before a decision is made on eradication.
Finally, on 30 September, I farewelled Peter Vaughan from GIA after six years as Chief Executive Officer. Peter was deeply involved in many of the initiatives culminating in the establishment of GIA. He worked with four Presidents of NGIA and GIA, numerous Board Directors, and countless committees. His careful stewardship during this time greatly assisted the scores of volunteers who undertake the important work of developing policy and representing our industry. What is not widely known is the countless interactions that Peter had with government and industry groups to ensure that our industry is represented at the highest levels. Much of this important work was unseen by the wider industry but it is greatly valued. Unfortunately, due to current COVID-19 restrictions, Peter was unable to be farewelled in the normal way, where members could have an opportunity to thank him for his service. When things settle down, I will look for an opportunity to thank Peter more publicly and to recognise his service.
The Board of GIA is well advanced in finding a new CEO. We hope to make an announcement in the next few weeks.