National Biosecurity Communication and Engagement Network Communiqué May 2019

The National Biosecurity Communication and Engagement Network (NBCEN) produces nationally consistent public information in response to pest and disease outbreaks that impact on Australia’s agricultural industries.

The network consists of communication managers from the Australian, state and territory agriculture agencies, Plant Health Australia, Animal Health Australia, CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory, and the Australian Government Department of Health. The Australian Local Government Association, Wildlife Health Australia and the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions are Observers.

The network facilitates the rapid and consistent dissemination of information that affected people need to prevent and respond to a pest or disease outbreak. Audiences may include affected producers/growers and their local communities, trading partners, the general public, media, and stakeholders such as exporters and supply chain service providers.

NBCEN also plays a pivotal role in pest and disease prevention and preparedness communication and stakeholder engagement activities.

NBCEN meeting

NBCEN held its face-to-face meeting in Darwin at the office of Department of Primary Industry and Resources (DPIR). The meeting was held on May 2 and 3, hosted by DPIR.

Key outcomes

NBCEN’s work plan and Chair

NBCEN discussed an outcome from the last National Biosecurity Committee (NBC) meeting to rotate the NBCEN Chair annually. The Chair would be an NBC member, in line with other committees such as the Animal Health Committee. NBCEN will request NBC to select a Chair for NBCEN, and update the network’s terms of reference to reflect these changes. This approach offers clearer reporting lines to NBC and better representation of the network’s agenda at NBC meetings.

After discussing the current work plan and identifying future priorities, NBCEN agreed to undertake a number of projects led by small working groups, based on available capacity.

NBCEN agreed that the outcomes of the work plan over the next year should be to:

  • Facilitate the rapid and consistent dissemination of information required by stakeholders to prevent and respond to a pest or disease outbreak.
  • Review and assess areas for improvement in relation to biosecurity communication and engagement activities.
  • Play a pivotal role in pest and disease prevention and preparedness communication and stakeholder engagement activities.

The aim of the projects is to strengthen the network’s emergency response preparedness, and increase awareness of biosecurity responsibilities.

Projects include those that NBCEN have been asked to deliver, such as communication on 2020 International Year of Plant Health, and projects that will address consistent gaps in our preparedness and response capacity such as developing a pest and disease image library.

NBCEN agreed to update the work plan to reflect new commitments, noting the varying range of resources and funding available to the network across jurisdictions.

Lessons learned from recent incidents

NBCEN members discussed communication activities during responses to Brown Marmorated Stink Bug incursions across a number of jurisdictions including NSW, WA, VIC, QLD. As well as the host jurisdictions, PHA and the Commonwealth contributed to the overview of public information activities undertaken during responses to recent incidents. Sharing lessons learnt, as well as ideas that have worked well, is valuable for each jurisdiction. This is a set agenda item at all NBCEN meetings. NBCEN have agreed to review citrus canker response public information activities next.

Two NBCEN members participated in the last National Biosecurity Response Team (NBRT) exercise. QLD provided feedback on gaps that were identified during the exercise in the Biosecurity Incident Public Information Manual (BIPIM). The BIPIM was last reviewed in 2017, and NBCEN is committed to continuously improving the resource. It was agreed that the BIPIM would be updated to reflect new learnings.

NBCEN also considered how to encourage more applications for the NBRT in the public information function. This is to ensure there are adequately trained PI staff to manage a response.

Northern Territory’s Chief Plant Health Officer

NBCEN members took the opportunity to meet the Chief Plant Health Officer for the Northern Territory, Dr Anne Walters, and DPIR Executive Director Biosecurity and Animal Welfare, Sarah Corcoran.

Discussions centred on NT’s preparedness and emergency response activities, including undertaking the largest eradication program in Australia and declaring the NT free of banana freckle in February 2019.

Dr Walters outlined the NT’s responses to browsing ants and citrus canker, including insights on communication tools for engaging with the community and industry.

Industry engagement

NBCEN engages with industry groups to gain a better understanding of communication channels that work best, and increase industries understanding of the role of the public information function.

NT Farmers provided an update on the NT response to citrus canker from industry's perspective.

Craig Elliot, Program Manager for National Xylella preparedness, presented to NBCEN on Australia’s number one exotic plant pest priority, the plant bacteria Xylella fastidiosa, and the work that is underway nationally. NBCEN agreed that national preparedness for a potential incursion of Xylella is a high priority.

Dan Ryan, Director, National SITPlus program spoke on the largest biosecurity program in horticulture, the Qfly program.  Queensland sterile fruit fly technology is a vital component of South Australia’s biosecurity system and eradication programs.

The Australian Chief Environmental Biosecurity Officer

NBCEN discussed the appointment of Australia’s new Chief Environmental Biosecurity Officer (CEBO) and his functions, which are in line with that of the Chief Plant Protection Officer and Chief Veterinary Officer.

The network heard that detections of pests and diseases that impact the environment and are not covered elsewhere, such as amphibians, reptiles, and bats, but will be covered under the CEBO. The process for the development of national talking points for such detections remains consistent.

Tour of citrus canker emergency operations centre

NBCEN members took the opportunity to visit the Citrus Canker Eradication Program control centre. Program staff delivered a tour of the facilities and explained the challenges faced and successes achieved since the plant pest was first found in Darwin in April 2018.

Members met the response team for the Browsing Ant Eradication Program which is also housed in the control centre, and heard firsthand how they are engaging with the community and stakeholders on these important biosecurity issues.

Come and meet us!

NBCEN is dedicated to establishing relationships with our communication counterparts from industry. If you’re from a livestock or plant industry group or any of the associated supply chains, please feel free to come and meet us at one of our face-to-face meetings. Register your interest in meeting with us by emailing NBCEN.

Meeting attendees

The NBCEN’s Darwin 2019 meeting in Perth was attended by the following members:

Ray Gavin (Acting Chair) - Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
Merryn West - Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
Monique Mahoney - Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
Lucy Buhr - Department of Primary Industry and Resources
Emily Rucker NSW - Department of Primary Industries
Nicole Cairns - Agriculture Victoria
Kirsten Phillips- Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
Louise Morgan - Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
Mandy Gyles - Plant Health Australia
Jackie Poyser - Animal Health Australia
Danika Barnard - Animal Health Australia
Lisa Keen- Wildlife Health Australia
Fontella Koleff - Department of Primary Industries and Regions, South Australia
Cass Erbs – CSIRO

Next meeting

The next face-to-face meeting will be held in Brisbane in September 2019.

Contact NBCEN

For more information about NBCEN contact the Secretariat in the Department of Agriculture by emailing NBCEN or phone (02) 6272 2445.