Vinehealth Australia Board member Ross Meffin plays a vital role in South Australia’s biosecurity system.

Ross is the Chief Inspector for Plant Health in South Australia and the Minister’s delegate under the Plant Health Act. The statutory position of Chief Inspector is responsible for decision making and exercising high level powers under the Plant Health Act relating to prevention, control and eradication of plant pests and pathogens, as well as interstate accreditation and certification of interstate trade in horticultural produce.

These include powers that would be used in the event of an incursion of a pest such as phylloxera into South Australia, such as establishing quarantine areas. It also includes powers of issuing of orders necessary to prevent an outbreak or contain a pest or disease. In addition, the role represents and advocates for South Australia at national committees and bodies including the Plant Health Committee, Plant Health Australia, Consultative Committee on Exotic Plant Pests and the National Fruit Fly Council.

It’s in this role that Ross sits on the Board of Vinehealth Australia, which consists of the Chief Inspector and up to eight other members, according to the Phylloxera and Grape Industry Act 1995. He joined the Board of Vinehealth Australia in October 2018.

Ross is also the General Manager of Plant and Food Standards at PIRSA (Biosecurity SA), where he oversees the Plant Health, Primary Industries Food Safety and Rural Chemical Operations units.

Completing his PhD in plant biosecurity at the Bio-Protection Centre of Research Excellence at Lincoln University, New Zealand, and becoming Chief Plant Health Manager for SA are two key career highlights.

Ross has worked in biosecurity for more than a decade, with involvement in weeds, aquatic pests and plant health. He played a key role in the development of the 2018-2023 State Buffel Grass Strategic Plan and has oversight of the national Qlfy Sterile Insect Technology facility in Port Augusta.

Critical projects that Ross is currently working on include:

  • Planning to maintain essential services delivered in relation to plant health, apiaries biosecurity, primary industries food safety and agricultural and veterinary chemical use during the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Facilitating bushfire recovery for apiaries industry on Kangaroo Island and across the state; and
  • Eradication of Mediterranean fruit fly in metropolitan Adelaide, and seeking a national funding agreement for the Mediterranean fruit fly sterile insect (SIT) facility. 

“Biosecurity is a constantly changing picture. Managing biosecurity risks in an increasingly interconnected world – although it is less so at the moment – is a huge challenge,” Ross said.

“And we have to balance the allocation of resources between responding to outbreaks with adequately considering and planning for long term, low-likelihood, high consequence risks, for example, the arrival of new pests and diseases in Australia such as Xylella fastidiosa.”

Ross says building on the good industry and government relationships across Australia to further strengthen our biosecurity system will put us in a good position going forward.

“This is particularly important for managing established pests such as phylloxera at the national level,” Ross said. “In my time on the Vinehealth Australia Board, I would like to see a strengthened and revitalised national phylloxera management system developed.”