This bulletin is to provide the Lord Howe Island community with information and a status update.
As you will all understand, when an incident is in progress matters unfold, things change, and that can be challenging to communicate.
A full incident review and debrief will occur in the coming weeks, however as of this afternoon this is what I believe to be accurate:
- On Thursday 08th September, and around 4am a live rodent was detected on board the MV Island Trader in Port Macquarie via trail cameras.
- As per normal process the footage was reviewed by the LHIB biosecurity contractor (and authorised officer under the Biosecurity Act), who reported the rodent activity to LHIB approximately 8am.
- There was no evidence on the camera footage that the rodent had left the ship. Regardless of whether it had or not, the actions that followed would have been taken, as the matter was a breach of general biosecurity obligations under the Biosecurity Act of 2015.
- Loading was halted while the ship was searched by dogs. On the ground discussion about risks occurred and loading recommenced.
- The CEO, Biosecurity Team Leader and Biosecurity Contractor held a conference call meeting with the Technical Advisory Group, Manager Environment and Heritage and A/Senior Manager Environment and Community Services (all off island at the time). The technical advisory group includes the independent rodent experts who advised throughout the REP and RRP. During that call the Biosecurity contractor was advised to halt loading the ship again until further notice while a decision was made.
- The group advised that the protocol should be enacted, which involves unloading the ship, including goods stored in the locked hold to ensure it could be confidently checked, and that the ship would then require seven rodent free days before an authorised officer could clear it for departure. We are at Day 4 of the 7 day period.
- As CEO, I called Birdon General Manager and advised the above, and the authorised officer issued the direction.
- Birdon advised LHIB that due to tides, the reloading would not commence at the end of 7 days, and the earliest it would leave would be 22nd September, arriving here 24th September. The trader has a draft of 1.6m.
- Unfortunately, that will result in it being two weeks since the last ship arrived, compounded by it being the start of the season. I acknowledge and empathise with all affected.
- Birdon contacted Eastern Air Services and requested a quote to transport perishables.
- The island’s businesses and residents are Birdon’s customers with respect to ship freight, and the Board advised that all that the next steps with respect to transport of perishables needed to be arranged with Birdon.
- LHIB advised both Birdon and Eastern Air that responsibility for transport of the goods rests with Birdon.
- Some business have made private arrangements for the transport of perishables directly with Birdon and Eastern Air Services, with the first flight arriving this afternoon and more planned for tomorrow.
- An informal enquiry was made by the LHIB to the Defence Force last week, and discussions have ensued over the weekend.
- A formal request for assistance has been lodged, however should not be relied on. It is unlikely that a response and any action will occur before Wednesday 14th.
- Eastern Air services are willing to fly perishables, and bookings for the same should be made directly with them.
- Noting that orders will need to be finalised with suppliers this week as per usual, residents should make their own decision with respect to re-ordering perishables, and contact Birdon to book and ensure that additional freight can be shipped.
On a final note, I acknowledge that the NSW government announced $32.9M for biosecurity in the recent budget. This money is tied to a funding agreement, and specific deliverables. It is not available to fly freight after a biosecurity breach unfortunately. That’s frustrating, however its roll out over the next 4 years should minimise the risk of this occurring in the future.
A reminder that the open session of the Boarding meeting Wednesday concludes with general business and can include items from the floor should anyone be seeking further information.
I will endeavour to keep you abreast of matters as any new information comes to hand.
Chief Executive Officer
Date: 12 September 2022