Australian biosecurity experts have been forced to find a novel way to help colleagues in Papua New Guinea keep dangerous pests and plants at bay.
There are a number of nasties on Australia's doorstop, African Swine Fever is the worst, but there are other plants and insects just a short distance away.
Because of COVID-19 border bans, Australian experts will be using technology to help colleagues identify any potential risks.
If Australians needed any further warning of our biosecurity risk, they need only look at Fall Armyworm or the dog disease Ehrlichiosis as recent invaders we had no defence for.
Most of the attention of biosecurity officials is with Saibai Island which is just four kilometres distant from Australia.
This time Australian authorities are collaborating with their PNG counterparts with a plant survey on New Britain which is on the northern side of PNG.
A plant health survey on New Britain will help support biosecurity surveillance in PNG as well as Australia's preparedness for potential pest and disease risks.
Scientists from PNG's National Agriculture and Quarantine Inspection Authority will be surveying, sampling and testing plants and insects across the island.
"They will be surveying the plant health and presence of plant pests, which will improve our knowledge of what potential disease or pest risks we need to be alert to," Australia's chief plant protection officer Gabrielle Vivian-Smith said.
"Because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, we've had to develop a remote system of real-time support," he said.
Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy scientists will provide real time support whilst NAQIA is in the field using platforms like WhatsApp to send messages and share images.
They are on the lookout for species on the priority lists of both countries like coconut rhinoceros beetle, mango pulp weevil, Xylella and Siam weed.
"Any species that cannot be identified by NAQIA will be sent to Australia for diagnosis," Mr Vivian-Smith said.
"Not only will this survey help NAQIA better understand what plant and insect pests they're dealing with, but it will enable us at DAWE to have early warning and intelligence of priority plant pests in Australia's near neighbours.
"Given Australia's proximity to PNG , and the vital trade links between Papua and the Torres Strait, it's important that we are armed with knowledge of what's affecting our neighbours.
"We're not stopping here either - in November, a second survey will be undertaken in the Vanimo region.
"This survey will focus on Asian citrus psyllid, a small sap-sucking insect which can carry disease and kill off citrus trees.
"We're proud to be working alongside our neighbours in Papua New Guinea to safeguard the biosecurity of both nations."
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