Officials have raised concerns that exotic pests or diseases could enter Australia through Gold Coast Airport after nearly 7000 items of biosecurity concern – including almost one tonne of meat – was seized by officers at the airport during 2016.
Head of Biosecurity at the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Lyn O’Connell, said the increase in seizures at the airport, up 15 per cent on the year before, was a concern for all Australians because exotic pests and diseases had the potential to hurt our way of life.
“A disease like foot and mouth that isn’t present in Australia can be carried here by a passenger bringing a meat product—which is why we’re so concerned about the increase in the number of meat products we’re seizing at the border,” Ms O’Connell said.
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“Australia is free from rabies but should it get here we can expect it to hurt our emblematic marsupials, like kangaroos and koalas, who are mammals and would be susceptible.
Computer modelling from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources estimated that an outbreak could wreck our livestock industries and cost Australia more than $50 billion over 10 years.
“Passengers entering Australia need to think about the risk they’re posing to Australia when they pack their bags,” said Ms O’Connell.
Items seized at the Gold Coast Airport in 2016 included:
- 969 kg of meat, a 28.5% increase from 2015
- 180 kg of seafood, a 114% increase from 2015
- 176 kg of apples and pears, a 70% increase from 2015
- 300 items of egg products, a 98% increase from 2015
- 419 items of citrus, a 33% increase from 2015
Ms O’Connell said we could expect the amount of items being seized to increase in the future as the Gold Coast, and Australia more broadly, remains a holiday destination of choice for many people overseas. But she warned that “we need their help to manage biosecurity risks so that the environment, and native flora and fauna that so many people travel here to see, is safeguarded.”