The Australian Government’s approach to biosecurity – specifically, policing the borders to prevent new incursions of pest plants, animals and diseases – is inconsistent. On the one hand, it will (correctly) screen passengers’ luggage for plant and animal material that might carry diseases into Norfolk Island; on the other hand, the screening is largely based on an honour system through self-declaration. The restrictions have not prevented the recent incursion of Black Sigatoka disease of bananas.
There are many pests and diseases abundant in Australia that are absent from Norfolk Island, including:
Island apiarists have long been pleading with the Australian Government to declare a “Bee Sanctuary” and to take every practicable step to keep the Island free of several notorious pests of the honeybee. Read about their plea here. Island farmers report evidence that they can no longer harvest uninfected fruits that was the case only 5 years ago. Importation of fruit and vegetables runs the risk of introducing pests and diseases that will eventually prevent the Island from producing a sustainable, diverse food supply.
The failure of the Australian Government to take biosecurity sufficiently seriously stems from three corrosive trends in national public administration:
In Australia, it is difficult to prevent spread of any new pest or disease once it gains a foothold. Strengthening biosecurity procedures would be a service not only to the residents – especially farmers – of Norfolk Island. There would be immense value to Australia and the world of keeping the Island free of pests that have established permanent populations elsewhere, such as Panama Disease.
In 2017 Australia’s Invasive Species Council (with NGO Island Conservation) issued a benchmark report on Norfolk Island’s biosecurity and highlighted just how weak the controls were. The press release on 20 November 2017 issued a call to action by the Australian Government. These initiatives followed the earlier biosecurity benchmark report coordinated by Island resident Dr Glynn Maynard.
Detailed information on particular species is posted on the Introduced and Invasive Species page.