Being prepared for a biosecurity emergency is vital to protect Western Australia’s agrifood industries and maintain access to valuable export markets.
This week, the Department of Agriculture and Food will host a national training exercise, Exercise APOLLO, to help prepare its staff and key industry players to respond to an emergency animal, disease or pest outbreak in WA.
Exercise APOLLO is an emergency response exercise which starts tomorrow (Tuesday) and runs through until Thursday. It is being held in Bunbury and involves 150 participants from local, State and Federal governments and livestock industry organisations and representatives.
The exercise is part of the department’s $20 million Boosting Biosecurity Defences project made possible by the State Government’s Royalties for Regions $300 million investment in the Seizing the Opportunity Agriculture initiative.
Exercise APOLLO simulates an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in Western Australia. It is only an exercise simulation, not an actual real-time outbreak of the disease which is not present in Australia.
Department Biosecurity and Regulation Executive Director Kevin Chennell said preparedness was essential to ensuring the department, the State and industry were well prepared to respond to a biosecurity incident, such as FMD, to protect our world class agriculture sector and ensure ongoing market access.
“If there is an outbreak of an exotic plant or animal disease or pest in WA, the Department of Agriculture and Food would lead the response,” Dr Chennell said.
“The quicker a disease is detected, the sooner the spread can be stopped and the cost can be reduced.
“A foot-and-mouth disease detection in WA would not only affect trade, but there would be flow on effects to communities including job losses, closures of businesses and social and mental health stress. It is highly likely tourism would also be affected.
“The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resources Economics and Sciences (ABARES) estimates a large scale FMD outbreak across a number of states would cost the Australian economy up to $52 billion over 10 years.”
In addition to department officers, there will be staff from the Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, agricultural departments from other states and territories, WA Police, Department of Emergency Services, Main Roads, Health, local government and city representatives, as well as industry representatives and groups, including WAFarmers, Pastoralists and Graziers and live exporters participating in the exercise.
An activity such as Exercise APOLLO is an invaluable capacity-building activity, enabling participants to work through procedures and systems in a simulated live-like situation, and for other government and industry stakeholders to practise and enhance their skills to respond.
Dr Chennell said through Exercise APOLLO, the department would be assessing and evaluating a number of operating systems, plans and procedures including a computer property information and tracing system (MAX) and the policies and procedures related to the disposal of animals.
“The evaluation of the exercise is very important to see where we are at, identify gaps and direct future programs and activities including training to enhance both Government and industry capacity to respond effectively,” he said.
Exercise APOLLO will see the formation of a State Coordination Centre and Local Coordination Centre to manage the simulated disease outbreak, and an Exercise Control Centre to drive activities and undertake evaluation.
More information on Exercise APOLLO and emergency preparedness can be found on the department’s website.
Exercise APOLLO runs from Tuesday May 17 to Thursday May 19 in Bunbury.
Exercise APOLLO simulates an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in WA. It is not a real outbreak of the disease which is not present in Australia.
Exercise APOLLO involves 150 participants from local, State and Federal governments and livestock industry representatives.
Including visitors and observers, there will be approximately 180 people involved over the three days.
Exercise APOLLO will see the formation of State and Local Coordination Centres and an Exercise Control to facilitate the exercise.
These centres will be housed in the Department of Agriculture Food, Department of Parks and Wildlife and Department of Emergency Services buildings in Bunbury. All buildings are contained within the Bunbury Light Industrial Area Government precinct.
Exercise APOLLO has been a significant logistical exercise involving many hours of planning.
A planning team has been in place for the past 12 months including department staff and staff from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Animal Health Australia, representatives from other agricultural agencies.
Media contacts: DAFWA media, 9368 3937