Stopping biosecurity risks at the airport

Stopping biosecurity risks at the airport

Stopping biosecurity risks at the airport

04 April 2017

A painted coconut face, large mushrooms and a pine cone kiwi bird wearing a Santa hat are just some of the more interesting ‘items’ to arrive at Canberra Airport onboard international flights since September.

There’s no punchline, they are in fact all biosecurity risks that were seized by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources from passengers entering Australia after stepping off their flight.

Head of biosecurity at the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Lyn O’Connell, said the start of international flights means maintaining biosecurity vigilance is increasingly important for Canberra as the capital is exposed to a range of potentially new risks.

“Our biosecurity work at Canberra Airport ensures that international passengers are not bringing in risk items that could be harbouring harmful pests or diseases present in other countries,” Ms O’Connell said. “Pests and diseases that are not present in Australia could seriously impact our unique environment, agriculture industries and our plant, animal and human health status.

Almost 1,400 biosecurity risk items have been seized by the Department’s biosecurity officers at Canberra Airport since international flights began in September last year. The most seized have been footwear and sporting and recreational equipment contaminated with soil or plant material.

“If passengers bring in an apple it could carry pests like fruit fly, which could seriously damage our $556 million apple industry and more broadly our horticulture industry that is worth more than $9 billion,” said Ms O’Connell. “Biosecurity pests such as fruit fly can affect a range of produce, could reduce market access and profits for our farmers and increase their production costs.”

Ms O’Connell added a lot of passengers have attempted to bring in fruit, beef, spices, bark and seeds, which all have been seized by biosecurity officers.

“Our biosecurity officers do a great job in screening and assessing the risk these items pose and demonstrates the value and importance of our biosecurity work at Canberra Airport. All international passengers travelling to Canberra must declare any items containing certain food, plant (including wood) and animal material on their incoming passenger card. Failure to declare biosecurity items can lead to infringement penalties and serious prosecution,” said Ms O’Connell.

In 2015-16, the Department screened 4.1 million passengers at all of Australia’s international airports intercepting 270,000 biosecurity risk items and issuing 3,700 Quarantine Infringement Notices to passengers.

For more information on what can and can’t be brought to Australia, visit