Project Leader

Jessica Lye, cesar

Dr Helen McGregor, Redefining Agriculture




Australian cities are undergoing a high rate of growth. Creating ‘urban forests’ to boost resilience in the face of future challenges is widely accepted as a necessary strategy to achieve resilience and in response local governments are developing urban agriculture strategies. In addition, the popularity of ‘urban agriculture’ either practiced by home gardeners or community groups has experienced a marked increase over the past decade. As such, Melbourne Local Government Areas are now developing policies in line with this change.

Urban forests and urban agriculture will benefit Australian cities, however these initiatives will also lead to greater entry, establishment and incubation points for exotic plant pests, and may place peri-urban food bowls (and industries in general) at greater risk. In light of this emerging risk major cities experiencing high rates of growth and an urban greening direction (such as Melbourne) require an assessment of urban land use, local planning directions, current and future risks, and networks that may support urban/peri-urban biosecurity activities. There has so far been an uncoordinated approach to identifying key priorities and launch of biosecurity initiatives in urban and peri-urban zones. As legislation, planning policies and engagement materials are developed, and certain priority plant pests achieve a near global distribution, it is necessary to identify and quantify key networks and risks to provide a ground-truthed, granular framework for extension and response at the level of the city that can underpin and inform a national strategy. This ‘assessment and projection’ process must be robust and replicable across other major cities and is necessary to ensure strategic and coordinated activities are carried out by biosecurity professionals in the space. In this proposal we outline how such as assessment and projection process may work, and the benefits for agriculture, communities and planning authorities that would result.

Aims and Outcomes

Aim: The project objective is two-fold:

1. Develop a guiding framework for initiation of biosecurity activities in a major Australian city (Melbourne & Greater Melbourne); and

2. Test and refine the methodology for developing the framework for use in other jurisdictions.


To achieve the project aims we will spatially map key networks and knowledge brokers in Melbourne and Greater Melbourne that may contribute to communication and extension during a plant pest incursion, and conduct ground truthing to test the efficacy of identified networks and further understand their potential reach for plant biosecurity purposes. Engagement with these groups will also include pest surveillance training workshops and assessment of how community members respond to using reporting applications. The reach of key knowledge brokers and networks will be assessed through consultation with these groups.

An important activity to be run concurrently will be GIS mapping of current and future land use in Melbourne and Greater Melbourne, with projected land use being informed by compilation and analysis of local and state government policies and plans. These activities will inform final steps in the project:

  • identifying high risk locations for pest establishment;
  • identifying high risk pathways for spread of priority pests for different plant agricultural sectors; and
  • cross analysis of monitoring activities for these industries with risk pathways to identify gaps in current monitoring.

This project includes in-kind contribution from cesar in the form of findings from aproject run in parallel that is investigating value drivers of potential early detectors in urban areas and best methods of engagement for likely reporters. This contribution will add valuable social science data to final outputs and a literature review that compiles past work in the space. The in-kind contribution will also include a stakeholder mapping assessment that will support spatial mapping of networks and knowledge brokers. It is important to note that the proposed project is intended to be concluded in time to share findings with biosecurity authorities so that the data and methodology may be used to develop a national urban biosecurity strategy.

Outcome: This work will develop and execute a process of identifying needs and risks at the city level that may be used to guide future work in the area of urban/peri-urban plant biosecurity in Australia. The resulting framework will be available for immediate use in Victoria and the project will test a methodology that will be replicable in other jurisdictions. Information generated will provide guidance for agricultural industries and biosecurity agencies on current/future risks in this region, including high risk pathways and monitoring gaps for priority pests for different plant agricultural sectors. Findings will also aid implementation and delivery of future legislation and engagement activities to ensure optimal community reach and effective uptake of urban based biosecurity initiatives.

It is likely that this project will run in parallel with the development of an urban biosecurity strategy at the national level. Cross-talk between this initiative (deep dive approach) and the national strategy initiative (high level) will be important to maximise the practicality of the resulting strategy.


1. GIS and spatial mapping of land use across urban/peri-urban Melbourne (layer 1).

2. Overlay of existing land use map with locations and reach of high interest/high influence organisations that may be used to form a practice change network (layer 2).

3. Mapped projection of future land use (layer 3).

4. Overlay of identified locations that are high risk of exotic plant pest establishment now and in the future (layer 4).

5. Report on workshops and consultation with community groups.

6. Report on needs and projections for Melbourne and Greater Melbourne and recommendations for agricultural industries at risk.