Plant Health Inspectors: Biosecurity knowledge and expertise with a heart

Plant health inspectors are out and about in Darwin checking citrus for canker symptoms.

An enthusiastic and diverse team of Plant Health Inspectors is the public face of the program to eradicate citrus canker in the NT.

Working with residents to identify citrus plants, and other plants that may host the citrus canker disease, the team is also responsible for the secure removal of affected plants in identified restricted areas of the Territory.

Daisy Lippiatt is one of the newer recruits to the team, with a Bachelor of Environmental Science (Honours), and experience that includes eradicating invasive ants in remote areas.

Daisy says one of the challenges, in addition to working in the heat, has been the emotional aspects for residents when their much-loved citrus plants need to be removed. “We worked with one gentleman to remove seven different varieties of citrus plants on his property. He had nurtured and cared for his plants over a number of years, with each plant having three different layers of mulch, and lots of love and attention. He was obviously very sad to lose his plants, but he understood the need to remove them because he lived in a restricted area,” said Daisy.

Mark Thomas, Plant Health Inspector, is a former dairy farmer and crop farmer with hands-on experience managing plant and animal diseases. Mark also reflected on the personal and emotional attachment some residents have for their citrus plants. “When we need to remove affected plants it’s really important for us to be clear and honest about why we are doing this,” explained Mark. “The residents in the restricted areas are personally impacted, but the citrus canker disease could have a much larger impact - on citrus farmers, workers and jobs across Australia - if we don’t remove the disease here in the Territory. When residents understand the bigger picture, and how important their support is, they are more willing to come on board.”

Jake Armistead, Team Leader, Field Operations, has enjoyed meeting and working with residents in greater Darwin and Katherine. An encounter with a particularly affectionate pet pig was all in a day’s work for Jake. “I was only in my first week or two as Team Leader when I met Pepper the pet pig. We were inspecting a couple of citrus plants on a Darwin property and Pepper, a resident on the property, came over to investigate”, said Jake.

Jake Armistead and Peppa the pet pig

Pepper welcomed Jake and his colleagues with some gentle nudges and friendly grunts and all was going well until Jake gave her a little pat. Jake explained: “It turns out she LOVES getting pats and attention. SERIOUSLY loves getting pats. And she can be very persistent asking for pats – all 200kg of her. My work mates love the fact I was nearly – literally - bowled over by Pepper and her demands for my attention. And they have a photo to prove it.”

The Plant Health Inspectors value the conversations and engagement they have with Territorians regarding the citrus canker eradication work. Anyone who wants to know more about citrus canker, or would like to book an appointment for a Plant Health Inspector to check their property for citrus canker host plants, is invited to contact the citrus canker response team via:

Phone: 1800 931 722; Email: citruscanker@nt.gov.au;

Website: https://dpir.nt.gov.au/citruscanker

Last updated: 21 December 2018