What is Biosecurity?
‘Biosecurity’ means protecting the environment, economy, and community from the negative impacts of pests, diseases and weeds. It is risk management for the environment.
Why is Biosecurity important?
As an island nation, Australia remains free from many pests and diseases that affect other parts of the world. However, there are new challenges like globalization and trade, climate change and variability that increase our vulnerability to biosecurity risks. Additionally, domestic factors such as population spread, shifting demographics and changing land uses increasing the interface between urban and rural areas and the natural environment are making pest and disease management more complicated to deal with.
Effective control and management of these biosecurity risks lets us protect the natural environment that we all value and enjoy. Some pests, diseases and weeds can directly affect human health and negatively impact the Australian outdoor lifestyle.
What does the Law say about Biosecurity?
The Australian federal and state governments signed an Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity which aims to enhance Australia’s biosecurity system. It states that Biosecurity is a shared responsibility; that we have to work together with the government and industry to protect against biosecurity risks.
What can you do about it?
As bushwalkers, we are best placed to detect a new pest, disease or weed in the natural areas that we visit. Left undetected, ‘sleeper’ weeds can be costly to eradicate and can have significant impacts on the environment. You can help by
- knowing your responsibilities under the NSW Biosecurity Act 2015
- being aware of the biosecurity risks you are causing when you walk
- keeping your gear clean
- quickly reporting significant or unusual pests, diseases and weeds
- being aware of and managing biosecurity risks where they occur on your land (e.g. controlling weeds)
- participating in community programs aimed at protecting the environment
- volunteering to manage biosecurity risks in shared spaces such as public land, waterways, coastal waters, etc.
Bushwalking clubs can engage with communities.
Interesting approaches include
- Leading volunteer groups on weed removal, bush regeneration projects and rehabilitation of aquatic habitats, partnering with Councils on their Bushcare programs. E.g. The City of Ryde Bushcare Program, Lane Cove Bushcare Program, Hornsby Shire Council Bushcare Program.
- Raising community awareness to promote the role the community can take in protecting NSW and ACT from risks such as the Bushwalking NSW It’s Sweet to Walk Soft project
- Innovative information campaigns to communicate scientific knowledge in a simple and easy-to-understand format such as NPA of NSW campaigns like Stand Up For Nature.
- New tools and approaches to identify and report biosecurity risks including social media networks such as citizen science projects like Bush Mates, Who’s Living on my Land, Dragons of Sydney, etc.
Tourists, including Australians returning from interstate and overseas, need to ensure they do not return with biosecurity risk materials which may endanger NSW’s or Australia’s biosecurity status.
While Biosecurity controls at Australia’s borders minimise the risk of exotic pests and diseases entering Australia, we all have a role to keep the threats of biosecurity at bay. Being the bushwalking eyes and ears is where we begin!
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