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The Northern Territory team working hard to keep Australia safe from biosecurity threats, such as foot and mouth disease, received welcome news in the Budget.

A further $2 million is being invested in a package to strengthen biosecurity preparedness and support agribusiness.

The allocation, which follows a $2.9 million spend last financial year, will allow an increased focus on training for biosecurity responses in the face of emergencies.

It also increases the likelihood of eradication programs being successful.

The NT’s agriculture and pastoral sector is worth $1.3 billion.

Biosecurity threats are increasing, particularly as two livestock diseases have been detected. Sweep is too emotive and not words we use in the biosecurity space. It causes alarm.The Territory is recognised as being the frontline of defence for biosecurity.

Foot and mouth and lumpy skin diseases could devastate Australia’s massive cattle industry.

But there are many other threats from pests and diseases, such as banana freckle, and fall army worm.

The effects of disease and pests would not only threaten the profitability of industry but also harm regional economies.

The Northern Territory Government’s investment into biosecurity functions in 2023/24 is $12.95 million.

Significant funding has been dedicated to strengthening biosecurity measures over the past 12 months, including:

• Establishment of the Northern Australian Coordination Network, a $4.3 million biosecurity boost for Northern Australia announced in October 2022 by Commonwealth Minister for Agriculture Murray Watt

• The $44 million upgrade of Berrimah Farm Science Precinct, including a $3.5 million level 3 biosecurity containment laboratory.

Lorraine Corowa, senior executive director biosecurity and animal welfare at the Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade, says the biosecurity diagnostic and surveillance work carried out at Berrimah Farm Science Precinct by a team of highly skilled and qualified scientists is “vital to the early detection” of new pests and diseases.

“Early detection is the key and provides us with the greatest chance of eradication,” she says.

“In the biosecurity world, minutes and hours can make a difference to either stamping out a disease versus trying to manage it.

“The fewer pests and diseases that have to be managed by industry, the greater their profitability and, importantly, the better our credentials are as suppliers of quality clean produce.”

Mrs Corowa says the Territory Government’s investment of $1.9 million funding in the 2022 budget, $2.9 million in the 2022-23 financial year and $2 million in the 2023 budget “demonstrates serious commitment to strengthening our frontline biosecurity services”.

Industry experts say that the Territory plays a critical role as the frontline for biosecurity surveillance in the region and it is important that it works with the Commonwealth Government and Industry to protect the nation.