NAQS is an early detection and warning system within the Australian Government Department of Agriculture that addresses the unique biosecurity risks facing Australia’s northern region. NAQS concentrates on agricultural pests and diseases entering Australia’s northern region via unregulated pathways. The geographic range and frequency of animal health surveys carried out as a part of the NAQS program are informed by a risk framework, based on NAQS priority diseases and pre-defined geographical risk areas.

Through a formal risk review process based on expert elicitation, the pathways of entry, risk factors for establishment and risk factors for spread are considered for each priority disease and geographical area and combined to arrive at an overall risk score for each disease in each area. Overall national risk scores for each disease that take into account the magnitude of consequence are also calculated. All outputs are mapped and used to inform the allocation of resources.

This process is completed every five to eight years and the latest review has just been completed with the help of Ausvet. Results were also compared to the 2011 risk review that used the same methodology. Key findings include an increase in the risk of rabies introduction and the emergence of African swine fever as a potential threat to Northern Australia. Overall, current surveillance effort matched risk scores well.

NAQS participants
Participants at NAQS risk review workshop