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CRC40035: Risk management processes for the movement of samples during an emergency plant pest (EPP) incursion

The objective of CRC40035 was to review the process of moving emergency plant pest (EPP) samples during incursion, determine critical control points to manage risks and make recommendations for R&D. This review does not include samples collected by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS). Management of these was being reviewed internally.

There are two main groups of plant related diagnostic samples that could contain EPPs:

  • Biosecurity samples generated by surveillance, emergency response, eradication and containment programs. 
  • Routine samples collected by farm consultants and primary producers to facilitate efficient farm management and access international markets.

Sample types vary widely and include herbaceous and woody plants, fruit, hay, seed, insects and soil. Each type of sample has specific packaging requirements for it to survive transport intact and arrive in good diagnostic condition.

Research outcomes

Australia Post currently only require packaging for plant diagnostic samples to comply with standard parcel post, although restricted samples need to conform to the respective State Quarantine regulations and be accompanied by Plant Health Certificates (Post Guide, Parcels within Australia, 2005). The requirements for parcel post is expressed in outcome terms e.g. must not leak etc, but do not have minimum technical specifications.

Better guidelines should be developed for the different types of plant, insect and soil samples to minimise the risk of substandard packaging being used. The recommended packaging must be readily available and reasonably priced if it is to be widely adopted.

New standards should be recorded in PlantPlan and updated as required. Incursion, eradication and containment programs are obliged to use the protocols in PlantPlan. PlantPlan is also readily accessible by diagnostic laboratories. User friendly brochures could be developed for primary producers and consultants, citing PlantPlan as the reference, and promoting biosecurity in the process.

Setting packaging standards too high will discourage people from sending samples. There are significant benefits to be achieved by encouraging people to send samples to approved laboratories; these include increasing the chance of early detection of EPPs and improved farm efficiency. By comparison, the risk they pose to spreading EPPs is very low, especially when compared to other means of dispersal.

Research implications

The CRCNPB is in a unique position to make a useful contribution to developing practical packaging standards and streamlining delivery of plant diagnostic samples. The following areas need to be addressed:

  • The decision to include plant infectious agents in AS 4834 was made with limited industry consultation and needs to be reviewed. Using Category A for samples that may contain EPPs will delay setup times and increase the cost of the incursion, eradication and containment programs, and associated research programs. The current definitions also encompass routine samples and this is likely to have an adverse impact on demand.
    • If AS 4834 standards are endorsed, then suitable packaging for each sample type needs to be identified and made available in regional areas. 
    • If AS 4834 is considered excessive, then the standard will need to be revised, and new standards developed based on readily available components. These standards could be included in PlantPlan or developed as new categories in AS 4834.
  • Contingency plans should be reviewed to ensure they include detailed packaging specifications and appropriate suppliers.
  • To simplify the process of sending samples, endorsement should be sought from State Quarantine Authorities to remove the requirement for Plant Health Certificates or Written Approval notices to accompany samples sent in recommended packaging to approved laboratories. This will encourage agricultural consultants and producers to submit more diagnostic samples, and increase the chance of early detection of EPP incursions and farming efficiency.


  • Australian and Australian/New Zealand Standards
  • Australian Dangerous Goods Code (ADG Code)
  • Department of Health and Ageing
  • Australia Post Guides
  • Department of Transport and Regional Services
  • Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF)
  • Biosecurity Australia; Plant Biosecurity
  • Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS)
  • Plant Health Australia
  • NSW Department of Primary Industries
  • Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries; Biosecurity
  • Grow Help Australia
  • Primary Industries and Resources South Australia
  • Department of Primary Industries and Water; Biosecurity, Tasmania
  • Department of Primary Industries, Victoria; Biosecurity Victoria
  • Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia
  • Western Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (WAQIS)


November 2006 - June 2007