The Post Entry Quarantine (PEQ) facility

What is a post entry quarantine (PEQ) facility?

Australia’s biosecurity strategy is based upon principles of risk management including:

  • off-shore verification of the pest and disease status of goods entering Australia
  • a requirement for import permits for all live animals, live plants and some seeds
  • extensive inspection and surveillance activities at the point of entry into Australia
  • post entry procedures for goods where the biosecurity risk extends beyond those border controls.

A post entry quarantine (PEQ) facility is where certain imported animals and plants are held for a specified period in a quarantined environment before release into Australia.

Management of certain quarantine risks requires most live animals, live plants and plant material intended for propagation, imported into Australia to spend some time in secure post entry quarantine facilities. This allows the appropriate biosecurity checks to occur before they are safely released to importers.

Why do we need PEQ facilities?

Australia is free of many diseases and pests that exist in other countries.

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources operates post entry quarantine facilities to help maintain the integrity of Australia’s biosecurity.

Animals and plants are not released into Australia until they have fulfilled quarantine requirements – this often includes a period of quarantine at PEQ facilities to ensure animals and plants are free from pests and diseases.

What is the budget for the project?

The 2014-15 Budget included continuing investment in the design and construction of the new post entry quarantine facility. In the financial year the Australian Government invested more than $140 million towards this initiative, $9.5 million of which was allocated to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources for transition purposes.

This builds on the government’s commitment in the 2012-13 Budget of $379.9 million over seven years to fund construction of a new government-owned and operated post entry quarantine station in Victoria, consolidating all existing Department of Agriculture and Water Resources PEQ functions to a single integrated site.

Will state or private sector facilities be affected?

The future post entry quarantine project has addressed existing commonwealth post entry quarantine functions only. State and private sector post entry quarantine functions are outside the scope of this project.

The project will not affect the wide range of arrangements in place for post entry quarantine facilities that are not operated by the Australian Government, including quarantine approved premises and facilities that operate under existing compliance agreements.

What are the details of the site of the new facility?

In June 2012 the site acquisition process was finalised with the procurement of a 144 hectare parcel of land at 135 Donnybrook Road, Mickleham. This is situated in the northern outskirts of Melbourne, Victoria. The acquisition marked the completion of an extensive process of site investigation and due diligence conducted over 12 months by the Commonwealth.

This site was selected as it met several requirements, including that it is:

  • large enough to allow all the final elements to fit on the site/s with space for future growth if required
  • located outside any current biosecurity risk exclusion zone
  • located away from populations of species in quarantine
  • located within easy reach of an international airport
  • located to be geographically appropriate for species in quarantine with minimum requirement to create artificial environments
  • located to have access to appropriate skills and support facilities (such as academic and research institutions and appropriate industry and communities).

Which existing sites close and when?

All existing sites will eventually close as operations are transferred to the new facility.

The Eastern Creek facility closed at the end of 2015. All other sites will be maintained until the end of existing leasing arrangements agreed with each site’s owner. These currently finish at the end of 2016 for Knoxfield, and at the end of 2018 for Spotswood and Torrens Island.

How big will the new facility be?

Since the site was purchased, detailed design work has been undertaken. Ongoing design workshops with Department of Agriculture and Water Resources staff and external consultants determined the final size, structure and layout of the new facility.

The project will replace our current post entry quarantine facilities with a sustainable, reliable facility that adopts modern technology and operating practices. It will deliver a modern facility that will consolidate existing animal and plant services into a single, integrated site in Victoria.

Will the new facility be contemporary?

The project will replace our current ageing post entry quarantine facilities with sustainable, reliable facilities that adopt modern technology and operating practices.

Will it be environmentally friendly?

Consistent with government policy, the commonwealth will ensure a high degree of environmental sustainability in all aspects of design, construction and operations. The project will embrace ecologically sustainable development principles including whole-of-life decision making in design, construction and operation, and compliance with specific commonwealth energy and water conservation policies.

What was the approval process for the new facility?

The concept design work of the new facility was completed in early 2013. This phase of design was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works (PWC), which needed to approve the proposed works before construction could begin.

A public hearing was held on 27 March 2013 and the committee's report on the project was tabled on 15 May 2013 before an Expediency Motion (approval) was passed by Parliament on 16 May 2013. This approval supported the progression of the PEQ project design phase and subsequently, the start of construction works.

The report by the PWC can be viewed in PDF format at Chapter 3 of the PWC Report 2/2013 on the PWC website.

How is the design for the new facility progressing?

With the Public Works Committee (PWC) approval in May 2013, the design of the facility progressed from the concept design phase to the schematic design phase by February 2014. The final design of the facility was completed in June 2014.

Leighton Contactors Pty Ltd were engaged as the managing contractor on 1 October 2013. They have provided oversight of the finalisation of design and have managed construction and building commissioning of the new facility. Construction of the facility began in April 2014 and some operations at the facility began at the end of 2015.

When will the new site be fully operational?

The new site began operations in late 2015 when the existing quarantine facility at Eastern Creek closed. Quarantine operations at other facilities will be transferred progressively to the new station with Phase Two scheduled to be completed by 2018.

Will the work on the design of the new facility change import conditions?

The new facility will continue to operate in line with existing import policies. The consolidation of services and integration of activities should lead to efficiencies and the adoption of modern management practices, but these will meet the same import policies.

The PEQ facility build project will not consider a review of the policies. Any changes to import policies will occur through the existing Department of Agriculture and Water Resources biosecurity import policy processes.

Will we need to use a private facility during the transition to a single site?

The existing Department of Agriculture and Water Resources sites will continue to operate until their lease-end dates. Transition planning has been undertaken to ensure the transfer of existing operations to the new site have been, and will continue to be coordinated smoothly, in stages, as the new compounds become operational.

The transition plan includes strategies for staff induction and training, transition of operations, communications with staff and stakeholders, site management, supply arrangements and commissioning of the new site.

Why did you spend money on existing sites that are going to close?

Some work at our existing sites was undertaken to ensure that they can continue to deliver the best workplace health and safety, biosecurity and welfare outcomes until the new facility is completed.

How was it decided where to spend the funding?

The department commissioned a report from specialist biosecurity consultants who identified several areas of existing sites that required upgrading to ensure they could operate effectively until closure. This report formed the basis for the works which were then further reviewed by the department before a final list of works were decided.

What benefits have been derived from this interim works programme?

The interim works have been completed at the existing facilities. These works delivered upgraded plant diagnostic laboratories and equipment, enhanced greenhouse temperature control, improved kennel and cattery environments and improved mechanical and electrical systems at our live bird and hatching egg facilities.

The improvements have also improved work environments for the department’s staff.

What did these works cost?

The budget for these works was $11.4 million. The total end cost of the work was less than the allocated budget due to favourable conditions in the construction industry and the use of simpler methods to implement the recommendations of the biosecurity consultants’ report.

What security measures are in place at the new facility?

Security measures at the new post entry quarantine (PEQ) facility include:

  • a central security office located near the main entrance
  • CCTV cameras installed throughout the facility
  • roaming security guards present 24 hours, seven days a week at the facility
  • security fencing surrounding the entire facility, and the compounds within it, providing layers of security.

What are QC2 and QC3 ratings?

QC2 and QC3 are quarantine containment levels two and three. They are part of a set of standards of varying stringency designed to ensure appropriate levels of quarantine are maintained.