by Hannah Byrne, Agribusiness Lawyer

The new Biosecurity Act 2014 (Act) came into effect on 1 July 2016.

General biosecurity obligation

Under the Act, individuals and organisations now have a “general biosecurity obligation” to take all reasonable and practical measures to prevent and manage “biosecurity risks” under their control and about which they know or should reasonably be expected to know.

A biosecurity risk exists when you deal with any pest, disease or contaminant, or with something that could carry one of these (eg animals, plants, soil, and equipment).

If your activities pose a biosecurity risk, you need to:

  • take all reasonable and practical steps to prevent or minimise each biosecurity risk;
  • minimise the likelihood of the risk causing a biosecurity event and limit the consequences of such an event; and
  • prevent or minimise the adverse effects the risk could have and refrain from doing anything that might exacerbate the adverse effects.

You are not expected to know about all biosecurity risks but you are expected to be aware of the biosecurity risks associated with your day-to-day work and hobbies. For example, livestock owners are expected to stay informed about, and manage appropriately, pests and diseases that could be carried by their animals as well as weeds and pest animals that could be on their property.

All individuals and organisations have a “general biosecurity obligation”. So, for example, tenants of leased properties should be aware of any biosecurity risks associated with their activities and take steps to appropriately manage pests and diseases (even though they do not own the land). Landlords also have a “general biosecurity obligation” and therefore have certain responsibilities despite having handed over possession of their property.

Registration requirements

Under the Act, anyone who keeps more than a certain number of designated animals (for example, one or more head of cattle, sheep, goats, pigs etc, 100 or more chickens or one or more beehives) is a “registrable biosecurity entity” and must register with Biosecurity Queensland.

Registered biosecurity entities (RBE) are allocated a property identification code (PIC).

If you had been allocated a PIC before 1 July 2016, you will have automatically become a RBE and your registration will be valid until 1 July 2019.

PICs are not “owned” by the landowner and are instead allocated to land on which animals are kept. As a result, more than one RBE can be registered to a property. If you do not own the property where your animals are kept, you still need to register as a RBE through Biosecurity Queensland.

It is your responsibility to keep your registration details up to date and you must notify Biosecurity Queensland if there are changes to your contact information or property details (e.g. land parcels removed, changes to the types of animals kept) or you acquire additional property on which animals will be kept.

Prohibited and restricted matters under the Act

The concepts of “prohibited matter” and “restricted matter” replace the declared pest classes under the previous legislation.

“Prohibited matter” is a disease, exotic fish, insect pest, pest animal or a weed that is not found in Queensland but if it was to enter Queensland it would seriously impact our health, way of life, the economy and the environment. If you become aware of the presence of a prohibited matter, you must report it to Biosecurity Queensland within 24 hours.

“Restricted matter” is an animal disease, noxious fish, insect, pest animal or weed found in Queensland that is listed in Schedule 2 of the Act. Specific actions are required to be taken to limit the impact of this matter by reducing, controlling or containing it. There are seven categories of restricted matter. Categories 1 and 2 must be reported within 24 hours. For example, Johne’s disease is a category 1 restricted matter that must be reported within 24 hours.

Again, you are not expected to know all types of prohibited and restricted matters however you are expected to know about prohibited and restricted matters you could potentially come across as part of your business. For example, graziers are expected to know about serious diseases of livestock including foot-and-mouth, anthrax and Johne’s disease and citrus farmers are expected to know about citrus canker.

Cattle tick management

Various changes have been made to cattle tick management in Queensland including:

  • As at 1 July 2016, Queensland was divided into two cattle tick zones, the cattle tick infested zone and the cattle tick free zone.
  • Owners of properties that are infested with cattle tick in the free zone have an obligation to notify of the presence of cattle tick or tick fever and will be subject to movement requirements and be required to undertake a cattle tick eradication program.
  • In most cases, a biosecurity certificate issued by an accredited certifier must be obtained before high risk livestock (eg, cattle) are moved from an infested zone to a free zone.

Whilst the management of cattle ticks has long been a contentious issue, it is a welcome relief to have some clarity regarding the position of the cattle tick line.

This information is intended to provide a general summary only and should not be relied on as a substitute for legal advice.

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