Managing Neglected Lands for Biosecurity

Under the Plant Biosecurity Act 2010, landholders are obligated to manage biosecurity risks.

In circumstances when landholders refuse or are unable to control plant pests and disease, the department will take action to control the biosecurity risk. This action is at the expense of the landowner.

The department has the option of recouping this expense by placing a charge against the title of the land. This charge can be paid by the property owner at a later time or, if the property is to be sold, it would be recovered during the property settlement.

This provides assurance to industry and markets that the department can take action to address biosecurity issues and support the ongoing viability of horticultural, forestry and broadacre production areas within regional Victoria.

What the Act applies to

The Act only applies to the management of plant pests and diseases across Victoria in:

  • fruit and vegetables
  • nuts
  • grain crops
  • timber
  • nursery plants.

It does not apply to dairy or other livestock industries.

Managing plant biosecurity risks

Managing pests and diseases is an obligation of landholders. Good biosecurity management helps protect:

  • local communities
  • the horticulture industry
  • trade for Victoria.

If a landholder is having difficulty in controlling pests or diseases, the department will work with them to take the best action.

The Plant Biosecurity Act provide Victorian plant industries with more options for dealing with biosecurity risks.

Neglected crops

If plants on a property become infested with a pest or disease which impacts other properties, the department can request action by a landholder to control the pest or disease.

This is managed by issuing an Infested Land Notice, which requires the landholder to treat or remove the infested plants within a reasonable time.

If the landholder fails to comply with the notice, the department can undertake the treatment or remove the infested plants and recover these costs from the landholder.

Benefits to industry

The Act now provides extra assurance to industry and markets that the department can take action to address biosecurity issues and support the viability of horticulture, forestry and grains production in Victoria.

Report neglected orchards and get more information

Contact the department on 136 186. If required, a department inspector will then contact you.

Debts for biosecurity treatment

The Act provides an option for the department to recover costs for the management of plant biosecurity risks within Victoria.

If the landholder cannot pay due to financial constraints, or refuses to reimburse the department for the cost of treatment or removal, the Act now provides for the debt to be applied as a first charge on the land. This means the charge remains until the debt is repaid by the landowner. If the property is sold and the charge has not been paid, it will be repaid then.

However, the first and best option is always for the department staff to work with landholders to find an amicable and effective outcome.

Deciding if treatment is required

A department inspector will manage biosecurity issues by working collaboratively with landholders. The department inspectors work closely with technical experts to diagnose the disease or pest issue to ensure appropriate directions are provided.

However, if the landholder does not voluntarily agree to address plant pest or disease issues, then a department inspector can issue an Infested Land Notice. This provides directions for the landholder to treat or remove infested plants within a reasonable time.

If a landholder is aggrieved by the issuing of an Infested Land Notice, the landholder can request a review of this decision by the department. This request must be made within specific timeframes provided in the Infested Land Notice.

Working out the costs

If a landholder does not comply with an Infested Land Notice, the department can undertake the work and recover the costs. The landholder will be consulted over which a department-approved contractor will do the work.

After works are undertaken, the department will issue the landholder with a determination of the costs. If aggrieved by the determination, the landholder can apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for a review.

The landholder is given reasonable time to pay this debt. However, failure to pay the debt will result in the notice of debt being issued to the landowner stating that they have 30 days to pay the debt and that failure to pay will result in the debt being registered as a charge on the land.

Abandoned leased land

In the case of leased land, and failure to pay the debt following action by the department, the landowner can be issued with a notice of debt.

However, the leaseholder and the owner are both informed throughout the whole process, starting from the issuing of an Infested Land Notice. The payment of the debt is a matter for the landowner and the leaseholder to resolve.

Tell the department if you can no longer care for your orchard

If a landholder cannot care for their orchard they should contact the department on 136 186.

A department inspector will then contact the landholder and work with them to resolve the plant biosecurity issue on their property.

Any work deemed necessary by the department will be specific to the biosecurity risk. It may include appropriate treatment options and is not limited to tree removal.

If tree removal is the best option, it can still only occur following a step-by-step consultation process with a department officer, including issuing of an Infested Land Notice and accompanying directions to address the problem. Failure to comply with the notice will result in the department undertaking the work required and the cost will be recovered from the landholder.

If you need financial assistance

The department is committed to working with landholders for the good of their property, their neighbours and their industry.

If you are experiencing financial difficulty and are struggling to manage biosecurity risks on your land, please seek assistance as early as possible. Assistance is at hand and we will work with you to find the best solution.

Page last updated: 02 Jan 2024