At a state level, owners and users of all land in Queensland have a General Biosecurity Obligation (GBO) under the Biosecurity Act 2014 (Qld).
- solar and wind farm owners
- linear infrastructure companies
- mining companies
- companies and other entities that enter land or work on land
- anyone who visits land.
Anyone who works on or uses land is responsible for managing the biosecurity risks under their control. This includes biosecurity risks that a person should be aware of given that person’s degree of control of the biosecurity risk. If a biosecurity risk becomes a biosecurity event, a person must take reasonable and practical steps to mitigate the risk of a pest, disease or contaminant on the land and prevent harm to the environment, economy and human health.
For example, a contractor working on a coal seam gas field would be required to wash down their vehicles and equipment before entering the land to prevent the spread of diseases and pests to the landowner’s land. The landowner must monitor their land, bring to the attention of the contractor any concerns they may have and work with the contractor to prevent a biosecurity risk or event from occurring.
A biosecurity event can have significant effects on the Australian environment and economy. The spread of fire ants in Queensland has already cost the Australian economy a substantial amount, and, if it continues, could cost the infrastructure industry $6.84 million a year, the medical industry $114 million a year, golf courses $224 million a year and the cattle industry $308 million a year.
Given the ramifications of a biosecurity event for a landowner and any associated entities, any agreements or contracts entered into should include provisions setting out who is responsible for managing a biosecurity risk.
Anyone who fails to comply with the GBO may be prosecuted for an offence that carries a maximum penalty of $391,650 or three years’ imprisonment under the Biosecurity Act 2014 (Qld) if the event was committed intentionally or recklessly and caused significant damage to public health and safety or to the economy or environment. Even if the offence did not cause significant damage, the penalties may still be severe with a maximum penalty of up to $130,550 or one year‘s imprisonment.