New Indigenous biosecurity officer on front line in Torres Strait

The Torres Strait will be better protected from pest and disease threats with the Queensland Government employing its first Indigenous biosecurity project officer for the region.

Member for Cook Cynthia Lui said Torres Strait Islander Michael Zitha will work with Biosecurity Queensland based on Thursday Island.

“The Queensland Government is investing in not only protecting our northern borders from biosecurity threats such as African Swine Fever and Oriental Fruit Fly, but also in protecting the Torres Strait from mainland pest and disease threats like cane toads and Panama Disease,” Ms Lui said.

“The northernmost islands in the Torres Strait are only four kilometres from Papua New Guinea which presents a high risk of plant and animal pests and diseases being introduced.

“Having a dedicated Biosecurity Queensland officer in the area, greatly improves our ability to work with other government agencies and the community to respond to new pests, weeds and diseases as they occur.”

Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said Michael Zitha has extensive experience in Indigenous community engagement across Australia, particularly in northern Queensland.

“As the Community Services Manager for the Torres Shire Council for the past four years, he also brings strong community connections to the position,” Mr Furner said.

Michael Zitha said he was honoured to be chosen for the role.

“I’m looking forward to working to protect our borders across the Torres Straits and Northern Peninsula Area through good community engagement, building relationships with all stakeholders and community education,” he said.

“It’s important work which will allow my grandkids, their kids and all the families throughout this region to continue to enjoy our island lifestyle without any worries.”

Mr Furner said the new position is part of the Queensland Government’s commitment to support the roll out of the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area Biosecurity Strategy.

The Strategy seeks to reduce the risk of pests and diseases moving through the Torres Strait to the mainland, and from the mainland to the Torres Straits and Northern Cape York.

The Strategy also provides a framework for how all regional stakeholders, including three levels of government, traditional owners, local residents and visitors to the region can manage biosecurity threats.

The appointment of Mr Zitha, and the recent addition of a Director of Far Northern Biosecurity, are in response to recommendations of the Queensland Biosecurity Capability Review.

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