Freight & Trade Alliance (FTA) wish to advise that the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment has issued Industry Advice 217-2021 advising of service standards for bookings and inspections during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What has changed?
Due to the prevalence of COVID-19 across NSW and Victoria, the department's ability to meet its service standards for inspection bookings in these states will be impacted over the next 4-6 weeks at a minimum. This is driven by the requirement to test and isolate officers based on exposure at third party premises (TPPs). Delays can be expected.
What is driving this?
The number of TPPs reporting as a COVID-19 exposure site daily (and in some cases on multiple occasions) in these states is increasing. As a result, inspection appointments are constantly having to be cancelled, re-shuffled and rescheduled, often at very short notice. Inspection resources are also being impacted by isolation requirements.
How is the department responding?
In the interim, the department continues to implement new initiatives and technologies to streamline the way it works. This includes changes to:
- IT systems as outlined in Import Industry Advice 211-2021
- the phased deployment of the workload management tool to automate the booking process
- the implementation of innovative automation into document assessment processes (expected to go live in November)
These initiatives have, and will continue to do so in the future, delivered efficiencies in the biosecurity system including time and cost savings to industry.
The department's focus continues to be on the safety and wellbeing of its workforce, and the industry participants it is physically engaging with, while ensuring the effective delivery of its regulatory functions which cannot be compromised.
This includes adhering to public health requirements of the states and territories, and ensuring its officers are vaccinated where this is mandated.
The department is unable to selectively identify inspection officers to satisfy requirements of entry imposed by some TPPs, such as not residing in an area of concern or being fully vaccinated (where public health orders don’t require).
Biosecurity Industry Participants are reminded of their obligations to notify the department if any of their staff (or visitors to their premises) test positive for COVID-19 as per Import Industry Advice Notice 159-2021.
We continue to monitor the situation closely. Please contact our Customer teams with any enquiries relating to specific bookings.