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Weak biosecurity

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:

  • Mediterranean and Queensland fruit flies (many fruits)
  • Codlin Moth (apples and pears)
  • Panama disease (bananas)
  • Asian honeybee.

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:

  • budget parsimony – the failure to fund the public service adequately
  • poor scientific literacy – insufficient numbers of naturalists and scientists in the senior ranks of the public service and the Parliament
  • the pre-eminence of the “free trade” mindset within Canberra and its over-zealous refusal to countenance any restrictions, however soundly based in farmers’ experience or science, that might be viewed as a barrier to free trade.

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.


Bee survey 2022

The honey bee population on Norfolk Island is unique from a pest and disease perspective. No other honey bee population in the world has fewer pests and pathogens. This important finding was confirmed in 2022 by a survey by Dr …

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Biosecurity posters

Biosecurity posters

Browsing through this collection of posters emphasises how vulnerable Norfolk Island is. It would take only one thoughtless passenger to introduce one of these pests irrevocably. ...
Quarantine (pests and diseases) Survey 2012-14

Quarantine (pests and diseases) Survey 2012-14

In 2012-2014 the Department of Agriculture conducted a comprehensive survey of the plant and animal pests and diseases of the Island, coordinated by resident Glynn Maynard. The report is publicly available. Supporting data The data amassed during the survey have …

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Bee security

Norfolk Island has an extremely healthy European bee population. The first European bees recorded on Norfolk Island were in the 1840s when the convict settlement was operational. The Norfolk bees are free from European and American Foulbrood and we have …

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