Rehearsal sharpens biosecurity emergency response skills

The ability of government and plant industries to respond to a plant pest incursion was put to the test last week with a large scale simulation exercise hosted in Melbourne. Around 60 industry and government representatives from all around Australia took part in Exercise Tortrix, designed to boost our readiness for a real exotic pest incursion.

Exercise Tortrix simulated a detection of False codling moth, a serious exotic pest that could potentially cause huge losses to agriculture in Australia in the case of a real incursion. It’s a pest that can attack over 70 different plant species, with the potential to affect vegetables, grains, citrus, pineapple, cotton, stonefruit, avocado, olive, and nursery and garden industries.

According to Exercise Controller, Dr Stephen Dibley from Plant Health Australia (PHA) Exercise Tortrix was very successful at raising awareness of what an Emergency Plant Pest response entails.

“There is nothing like a simulation exercise to focus minds,” said Dr Dibley.

“You can read through procedures and think you’ve understood how everything will work. But it isn’t until you’re actually sitting in the chair and others are waiting for a decision that you appreciate what is truly involved.”

All parties agreed that the exercise was worth the time and effort. Dr Susanna Driessen, PHA’s General Manager in Emergency Response and Preparedness, said that the exercise showed how important collaboration between industry and government is in getting a plan of action underway.

“It’s amazing what can be achieved when all parties work together.”

Exercise Tortrix began on Monday 12 August with a teleconference where parties agreed on what action was needed. This was followed by two days of face-to-face planning of the simulated response in Melbourne later in the week.

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21 August 2013