New appointment of Chief Environmental Biosecurity Officer shines spotlight on environmental biosecurity

Australia’s inaugural chief environmental biosecurity officer Ian Thompson.

The environment has always been a big factor in managing biosecurity risk, but a new Chief Environmental Biosecurity Officer (CEBO) is enhancing Australia’s capability to provide national leadership on environmental biosecurity.

In June 2018, the Australian Government announced it would establish the role – within the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources – in response to the 2017 report, Priorities for Australia’s biosecurity system: an independent review of the national biosecurity system and its underpinning intergovernmental agreement.

Ian Thompson was appointed as the inaugural Australian CEBO in October. He has extensive experience in this area and has the strong networks and relationships in the environment and natural resources management community required to make it a success.

The CEBO will be the primary representative and advisor to the Australian Government on all matters relating to Australia’s environmental biosecurity risks. This national leadership role is similar to those of the Chief Veterinary Officer, the Chief Plant Protection Officer or the Threatened Species Commissioner.

Ian hopes the role will ensure a more strategic and transparent approach to national environmental biosecurity preparedness and investment.

“I’ll be working to strengthen engagement with community and environmental groups, including on their role in biosecurity and how they contribute to the national biosecurity system,” Mr Thompson said.

An ongoing $825,000 a year project fund will also be established to drive investment in building environmental biosecurity capability and capacity, and to improve ability to detect and eradicate environmental pests and diseases.

“Managing biosecurity risk to the environment is a key part of the biosecurity system. It should be managed along with animal, plant and human health,” Mr Thompson added.

The key objectives of the CEBO role are to:

  • enhance understanding and oversight of environmental biosecurity risks
  • perform a national policy, engagement and leadership role
  • ensure that Australia’s environmental and community biosecurity risks are better defined and prioritised
  • improve the maturity of Australia’s environmental biosecurity preparedness, surveillance and response capacity.

The department, now working with the CEBO will to continue to:

  • collaborate with the Department of the Environment and Energy – including the Threatened Species Commissioner – to develop and implement policies and programs that protect the environment
  • conduct risk analyses, including import risk analyses, so that goods and people arriving in Australia do not pose an unacceptable biosecurity risk
  • provide inspection and certification services to facilitate the safe movement of people, goods and conveyances into and out of Australia
  • partner with state and territory governments, industry and communities to manage pest and disease outbreaks that threaten Australia’s environment.

Protecting the environment from pests and diseases is important so that all Australian’s can enjoy our unique biodiversity – now and into the future.

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