Biosecure touring: Do your bit for the country

By: Scott Heiman , Photography by: Scott & Kath Heiman

Domestic quarantine is a small burden compared to the risks that non-compliance poses. Keen to do your bit? We explain how.

Biosecurity. The word sounds like an incorporated system of an intergalactic starship on a sci-fi movie. Right?

Many of us rarely consider biosecurity unless we’re returning to Australia from overseas and completing a customs declaration. Questions like ‘Are you bringing into Australia grains, seeds plants or parts of plants?’ or ‘Have you come into contact with farms, farm animals or wilderness areas…in the past 30 days?’ form part of a process of checks and measures to reduce the likelihood of a biosecurity breach risking our agricultural industries and environment.

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But biosecurity is not solely about protecting Australia from bio-threats originating somewhere ‘out there’ beyond Australia’s borders. It’s actually a much broader set of measures that applies equally when we move around within this country. And we all have a legal responsibility to protect against the spread of pests and diseases – whether we’re working on the land, visiting a property, or simply transiting across regions and across state borders.

Outside of professional truckies, those of us who tow a camper or caravan probably cover more kilometres on the road than anyone else in Australia. So we can, unwittingly, aggravate one of several areas of real biosecurity threat if we unintentionally transport of plant material and soil by our vehicles.

Some of us may consider this risk to be a trivial oversight. But it’s not. If left unchecked, deposits like these will contribute to the creation of the red devil (rust). And none of us want to see our rigs crumble away through oxidation. But, more significantly, in a biosecurity sense is the fact that this dust, mud and plant material could retain plant spores, seeds, soil diseases and more. And the next time we drive through a river crossing or simply get rained-on, these pests can get washed out and deposited thousands of kilometres from where we picked them up.


Statistics indicate that weeds cost Australian farmers around $1.5 billion a year in weed control activities and a further $2.5 billion a year in lost agricultural production. That’s $4 billion! And this figure doesn’t include the impact on biodiversity, landscapes, tourism, water resources and other industries. It makes you stop and wonder how much of that $4 billion in lost revenue affects the price of a steak? Or what about the price of beer which also relies on crops?!

And if these statistics don’t grab your attention, you might like to consider that it’s an offence to transport weeds and agricultural diseases across the country, attracting fines of up to $50,000 in some jurisdictions.

At a more local level, have you ever wondered why most caravan parks you visit have bindies? Or why campsites in seemingly remote areas are often fringed with introduced weeds choking-out the native plants? Before you blame someone else, why not inspect your own tent pegs, campground mats, chairs and sporting equipment. You may be surprised by the number of unexpected hitch-hikers you’ve picked up from your own backyard or at places where you’ve stopped along the way.


 Biosecure Touring Do Your Bit For The Country

It’s easy to see how this can happen. Just take a close look at your ‘pride and joy’ next time you hit it with a garden hose. Watch what comes flooding from both your vehicle and trailer when you stick the hose down your chassis rail. I bet that it’s brown water full of grass, dust and other debris that you’ve picked up along the tracks. The same goes for your bash-plate and the guard around your fuel and water tanks. They probably trap handfuls of plant and organic matter. Right?

If we want to do better, the Australian Defence Force and the mining industry can provide us with examples of good practice. These sectors have well established guidelines for the wash-down of machinery prior to its movement across bio-regions. Equipment is regarded as contaminated once it comes into contact with seeds, dirt and mud that are not indigenous to the vehicle’s home-base.  Cleaning involves washing down a rig to a standard that is ‘clean as new’. This is not a beauty clean. It involves flushing out the chassis, cleaning and inspecting every nook and cranny from the radiator to the tail pipe. 

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To help get you started, we’ve included a checklist based on professional standards that identifies where to look – and what to do – to get rid of the dirt and contaminants that are trapped in and on our vehicles. While we may routinely wash some of these vehicle parts, there are probably other crannies and recesses that we’ve never even look at, let alone cleaned! But, if we love this Sunburnt Country, it’s important that we get into the habit of spending some quality time in the car wash, both during our travels and on our return home. And, remember, if you’re not as wet as the vehicle you’re cleaning when you’re finished – you’re probably not finished!


We all acknowledge that we live in a great country. That’s why we get outdoors as often as we do. But we also need to acknowledge that our actions as individuals can make a real difference to the health of our environment and can genuinely impact primary producers.

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So we shouldn’t consider biosecurity measures to be something we can simply ignore. After all, the measures we take now to protect our natural playground will reap dividends for our kids – and their kids. And if we don’t, we probably shouldn’t be too surprised when the places that we now enjoy visiting lose the natural qualities that made us want to go there in the first place.



Use an air compressor to clean hard to reach places including:

  • Radiator
  • Grill
  • Top of gearbox
  • Battery box
  • Recess under windscreen wipers
  • Air filters


Vacuum and wipe down.

Inspect and clean:

  • Foot wells
  • Seats and covers
  • Mats and carpets            
  • Seat belts
  • Door seals and rubbers


Inspect and clean:

  • Toolboxes and accessories
  • Spare tyre area
  • Tray, sides, channels and floor
  • All your recreational gear (including tent pegs, sporting equipment and chairs)


Clean with a high pressure hose:

  • Both sides of bash plates and guards
  • Both sides of spare tyres
  • Wheel arches, trims, flares
  • Axles and diff   
  • Tyre rims (both sides)
  • Tow bar               
  • Side steps
  • Chassis rail (inside and out)
  • Mud flaps
  • Suspension

 Check out the full feature in issue #105 August 2016 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.