The responsibility for actioning sections of the country’s Biosecurity Act may be divided between two or more government departments. For example, the department of agriculture may be responsible for biosecurity and preventive measures associated with new incursions, but a discovery of an existing nest of ants may come under the jurisdiction of the Department of Conservation. It is extremely important that clear demarcation of duties is made and agreed on by all departments.

Any imports should be governed by an Import Health Standard (IHS) (below), which is informed by an import risk analysis (IRA see Biosecurity section). Where the activities of multiple government departments are potentially affected by a single import health standard, it is necessary that each department should contribute to both the risk analysis and IHS.

The department undertaking the risk analysis is designated as the “lead department” and should invite the departments that are potentially affected to elect a representative to join a working group to decide on the scope and timeline for the initial draft of the risk analysis or IHS.

Affected departments may then contribute directly to the IRA or IHS via their representative until the draft is sent for consultation by external stakeholders.

Mechanisms for enforcing legislation

Import Health standards, Unwanted Organism Registers and Country Freedom Lists, and Mechanisms to support movement controls are examples of ways legislation can be enforced. These mechanisms may have different names in different countries but their purpose is the same.

Import Health Standards

An Import Health Standard is a document issued under the Biosecurity Act (or equivalent) of a country. The document outlines the safety measures and treatments that are needed before goods can be imported. These safety measures and treatments are based on an Import Risk Analysis.  In some countries (such as New Zealand) items that are not covered by an IHS cannot be imported under any circumstances. The IHS typically requires exports to be clean and state that the commodity should be free of any animals, insects, or other invertebrates, organic material of animal origin, plant material or soil.

The exporter must have a documented procedure that ensures the requirements of the IHS are met and the procedure must be approved by the country that issued the IHS. These procedures may include fumigation, heat treatment and storage in a special clean area. The importer must monitor the exporter to make sure that this procedure is followed.  How often this monitoring occurs depends on how well the exporter follows the IHS. If they are found to follow the guidelines well, they may need to be monitored less often.

Depending on the agreements between the exporting country’s National Plant Protection Organization (NPPO) and the issuer of the IHS, a certificate from an Official Assurance Programme (OAP) may be accepted. The certificate indicates that the area the export left from is clear of a particular invasive pest species. Knowing there is a good surveillance programme in place helps importers feel confident about issuing an OAP.

Any item that does not comply with the cleanliness or other requirements of the IHS should be decontaminated (at the exporter’s cost), reshipped or destroyed.

For example the New Zealand Import Health Standard for Sawn Timber is informed by the Pest Risk Analysis for Ants on Sawn Timber mentioned above.    

The New Zealand IHS for Vehicles Machinery and Tyres, simply stipulates that all incoming goods must be clean. This cleanliness is assured by pre-border heat treatment and fumigation.   The processes for ensuring cleanliness in line with New Zealand’s definition are stipulated by the New Zealand CTO.  The importer provides a guidance document indicating how the conditions of import may be met.

Further examples of New Zealand Import Health Standards may be found here.

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Unwanted Organism Register

Holding a register of unwanted organisms (organisms believed by the Chief Technical Officer to be capable of causing unwanted harm to any natural and physical resources or human health, which is evaluated against “Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Policy Statement on Unwanted Organisms for the Purposes of the Biosecurity Act 1993”) allows the powers available under the Biosecurity Act (or equivalent) to be exercised against that organism.

Unwanted ant species may be further categorised into:

  • Notifiable organisms - Ants that are either not established, are currently established but under management or that have previously been established but are now eradicated and a “Country Free” declaration made by the country issuing the Act. These ants are likely to have an adverse impact on either the economic viability of animal or plant production or market access and would either require some investigation into control if they were detected or are likely to have a serious impact on international trade.
  • Other Exotic Organisms - Organisms that are not established in the country issuing the Act, which would potentially have an economically significant impact on the viability of animal or plant production or market access, and some form of investigation or control might be undertaken if they were detected in New Zealand or are capable of inflicting harm on natural and physical resources.
  • Reportable Organisms - Organisms that are reportable to a specified authority by rule of a National or Regional Pest Management strategy
  • Small-Scale Management Programme Organisms - Ants that have been declared unwanted in response to a regional request to commence a management programme.
  • Regulated Pests - Ants specified as unwanted in an Import Risk Analysis or Import Health Standard. For example: New Zealand has 51 ant species listed on its Unwanted Organisms Register.

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Country Freedom List

Before acceptance of exports is considered, some countries require that phytosanitary certificates bear additional declarations stating that a country is free of a specific pest. Country freedom certification is based on internationally approved criteria and procedures. The ministry governing a county’s biosecurity may hold a database of known pests and diseases that have been confirmed to be absent. Reference to this database may be offered as an additional declaration without further survey.

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Mechanisms to support controlled areas, movement controls and containment

A country’s Biosecurity Act (or equivalent) should include a Schedule for the Enforcement of Controlled Areas, Movement Controls and Procedures (or similar). This legislation supports the actions undertaken as part of a response plan, and is designed to limit the spread of unwanted organisms that have been detected within the country, minimise the damage they may cause, protect other areas vulnerable to an incursion by the species and ensure that trade is not inhibited by their presence.

A Controlled Area Notice is issued under the act, which clearly delimits the controlled area or areas with a map(s) or aerial diagram(s) and specifies the items and groups that the movement restrictions apply to. The notice should also stipulate any movement allowed under written permit or affected items and groups that are governed by a different schedule in the Act.

For example, the red imported fire ant is a category 1 restricted pest under the Queensland Biosecurity Act 2014. This places land holders under the obligation to report any suspected sightings of the ant.  When the ant was detected, the Queensland Government implemented movement controls that applied to both individuals and commercial operators and restricted the movement of materials that could potentially carry these ants.  

Enforcement of Controlled Areas and movement controls is supported by the imposition of fines and/or imprisonment for non-compliance with the imposed restrictions.

Where movement controls may affect the day to day business of people within the controlled area, particularly in terms of income or other essential activities, compensation may be offered where contingency funding is available.

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Information Sources

Queensland Government. Fire ant movement controls (pdf and website).

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