The department conducts WRAs on all new plant species proposed for introduction into Australia as seeds, tissue culture or any other material for propagation. WRAs are usually done at the species level but sub-specific taxa or hybrids are also occasionally assessed.
The WRA process is a three-tiered system that involves the importer and the department.
Tier 1: determine status in Australia
The first step involves validating the taxonomic name of the plant proposed for introduction. Importers can begin the process by checking the biosecurity import conditions (BICON) system for the plant proposed for introduction. If the species is not listed as either permitted subject to import conditions or prohibited on BICON, the importer must complete a New plant introduction form and submit it to the department.
The department then completes Tier 1 by determining whether the plant is:
- not present in Australia
- present in Australia but under official control or
- present in Australia and not under official control.
Tier 2: conduct a weed risk assessment
If the plant is not present in Australia, the species advances to tier 2 and a Weed Risk Assessment is conducted by the department.
Tier 3: Post-entry evaluation
If the species falls into the ‘further evaluate’ category following a Weed Risk Assessment, importers are given the opportunity to provide more information for re-assessment of the species or continue to Tier 3 – post-entry evaluation.
The WRA process was adopted in 1997, following consultation with government agencies, nursery and seed industry associations, state noxious weed agencies, private importers, public and private sector scientists and weed experts from around the world.
The Department of the Environment was involved in developing the system and accepts the outcomes in its legislation (the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999).
In developing biosecurity policies for the importation of plants and plant products, the department complies with Australia's rights and obligations as a signatory to the World Trade Organisation, under the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement), and the International Plant Protection Convention.