Biosecurity warning over funding cuts

THE Tasmanian Greens yesterday revealed plans by the federal government to slash $700,000 from Tasmania's quarantine protection budget.

Greens primary industries spokesman Kim Booth said that the Greens confirmed at Tuesday night's Senate estimates that the Commonwealth service level agreement with Tasmania would finish in June, a move he said would put Tasmanian primary industries in jeopardy.

``This will result in likely job losses of five to six people from biosecurity services in Tasmania,'' Mr Booth said.

``Robust, effective frontline biosecurity is the foundation stone on which our $100 million fruit industry is built and is the only way to ensure access to markets.''

Legana cherry grower Peter Smith said that he was fearful of the possible ramifications of the cuts.

``That's a significant amount [of money] and you could not think that there would be no impact on the services provided by quarantine to maintain our fruit-fly-free status,'' Mr Smith said.

``It's very important that we can maintain our pest-free area status.

``If we lose a market because of a major incursion, we may find that very hard to get back - it's very hard to get market access, but very easy to lose it.''

Fruit Growers Tasmania business development manager Phil Pyke said that the changes had been justified on the basis of the ``minimal international shipping'' into Tasmania, but excluded the record number of cruise ships.

``Cruise ships may well be checked in Sydney or Melbourne, but their passengers are not within 20-30 minutes of growing regions when they disembark there,'' Mr Pyke said.

State Liberal primary industries spokesman Jeremy Rockliff yesterday confirmed an additional $900,000 to biosecurity frontline services.

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