Friday 22nd Sep, 2017

Biosecurity boost for the north

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THE Northern Territory will be home to a new biosecurity hub where invasive diseases and dangerous pests will be found with the latest technology.

The facility is to be built in Darwin – part of an $8m project by the Commonwealth and Territory governments to guard against foreign pests and diseases.

Agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce said the Australian government was delivering $3.5 million to create a biosecurity hub at the NT government’s Berrimah Farm facility in Darwin, plus $500,000 to fight bluetongue virus.

“The new biosecurity hub will be more than ten times the size of the current facility and will house the latest technology in molecular diagnostics, a technique to diagnose and monitor disease and detect risk,” he said.

Mr Joyce went on to say the investment would support faster testing of potential biosecurity threats as they emerge.

“This includes quickly separating local, sometimes beneficial, insects from exotic fruit flies that could devastate our horticulture exports,” he said.

“It also means a more effective early warning system for destructive threats such as new banana diseases. And it means expert rapid diagnosis of exotic diseases that could cripple Australian agriculture.”

Northern Territory primary industry and resources minister Ken Vowles said the improvements made possible through this joint investment, which includes $4.535 million from the Northern Territory government, included modernised molecular diagnostic techniques for biosecurity threat species.

“Alongside improved training for diagnostic specialists and better intelligence sharing with other states and territories, this is an essential investment to ensure that Australia remains at the cutting edge of modern biosecurity analysis,” he said.

“This specialist lab will also help maintain an expert national network of labs that helps keep Australia free from rabies; foot and mouth and other devastating diseases.”

Minister Joyce said the Australian Government’s $500,000 for better diagnostic testing for bluetongue virus would help define area freedom and maintain market access for our livestock exports.

“While a number of bluetongue serotypes are present in Australia, the severe clinical disease seen in other countries has not occurred here,” Minister Joyce said.

“The more effectively we can keep track of and help control bluetongue virus, the more it will support our international reputation as a trusted beef exporter as well as our ongoing access to overseas markets.”

Bluetongue is a disease that can affect sheep, goats, deer and cattle, with sheep as the most seriously affected species, according to the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Most infections in cattle are unapparent, but the disease can be deadly for sheep.

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