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Insights from a biosecurity champion

16 Apr

Dr Lloyd Klumpp, the previous General Manager at Biosecurity Tasmania, has worn many hats during his 40+ year career in the biosecurity and animal health space. As a result, he has a lot of great insights and learnings to share as he transitions into retirement. We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to pick his brains on what he loves about working in agriculture and what some of his biggest successes and challenges have been.

Tell us a bit about what your role involves – what does an average day look like?

In biosecurity, there isn’t really such a thing as an average day. It is never boring. As a General Manager there are the challenges of running an organisation of 200 people while meeting the demands of the government of the day.

What inspired/motivated you to work in the agriculture/biosecurity space?

I spent the first 25 years of my career in rural veterinary practice working with livestock producers. I came to recognise the critical importance of biosecurity through those years. The opportunity arose to join the Victorian Department of Primary Industries as a District Veterinary Officer. This meant my focused changed from individual animals to working more broadly across district, region and state in the service of agriculture and the wider community, which very much appealed to me.

Do you have any advice or key learnings for people new to the sector?

The ag sector is broad and very diverse. I am still amazed by the ingenuity of producers and the innovation that constantly happens in the industry. It is vitally important that those working in government recognise that ingenuity and innovation.

My advice to those entering government service is to maintain an open mind and beware the Ivory Tower, listen and learn from industry leaders and match their ingenuity and innovation. Building good partnerships helps us all meet outcomes which are jointly sought.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced throughout your career?

Big question – there have been lots of challenges!

For starters – emergency responses. I was Director of the State Control Centre for Victoria’s Equine Influenza response and I led responses to other ag disasters such as Black Saturday, which was particularly stressful. Then there were locusts in Victoria, Queensland Fruit Fly in Tasmania – all of these and others I have been involved in had significant implications for the livelihoods of individuals, the economy and the community. Ensuring responses such as these are successful while minimising the impact on individuals is very challenging and stressful.

Perhaps a challenge less visible to those outside of biosecurity is that of maintaining the biosecurity system and the status of your jurisdiction. Biosecurity is a bit like insurance. It can be underappreciated until you need it. A lot of the time and resources of a biosecurity agency is spent on prevention and preparedness. It is easy for these ‘invisible’ activities to be undervalued by those who invest in biosecurity. One of the most challenging roles of leadership in biosecurity is ensuring the system is continually improved!

What’s been some of the key highlights of your career?

For me personally, my greatest achievement has been gaining the respect of my peers, staff and stakeholders while leading a great team of people in Biosecurity Tasmania. Helping individuals in their career and doing what I can to ensure the best outcomes for the people I work with, and in service of, has been my greatest source of satisfaction.

Building and working with great teams was essential to the other achievements of maintaining Tasmania’s enviable biosecurity status, eradicating pests like Queensland Fruit Fly and developing legislation like the Tasmanian Biosecurity Act. Similarly, working with national teams like the National Biosecurity Committee and the National Biosecurity Emergency Preparedness Expert Group, along with many others to improve Australia’s biosecurity system has been a highlight.

Another key highlight was getting the opportunity to tour the salmon producing countries of the Northern Hemisphere – Canada, Scotland, Norway and the Faroe Islands – in the pursuit of better biosecurity management for Tasmania’s salmon industry.

Also, as a Principal Veterinary Officer working in animal welfare in Victoria, I was given the opportunity to travel to Egypt for a World Organisation for Animal Health conference and the UAE to help local veterinarians improve their animal welfare systems.

Are there any lessons learnt that you’d like to share?

Biosecurity is one of those fields in which scientific integrity is fundamentally important. Both in the day-to-day operations of a biosecurity system and in emergency responses to incursions, that scientific integrity can be challenged strongly by various interests. We have seen just that in the event of COVID-19. Having leaders that stand their ground and don’t let their scientific integrity be compromised results in the best biosecurity outcomes. That can be particularly difficult in today’s world, but it is absolutely critical!

Where do you think Australia as a collective needs to head in the next few years to protect our biosecurity standing?

The challenges to Australia’s biosecurity system have been coming thick and fast. Now more than ever, a collaborative approach is essential. Government jurisdictions need to work better together to ensure the best system across all sectors but gone are the days when “it’s the government’s job”.  There is a culture change developing but it needs to be driven more actively. Concepts such as the General Biosecurity Duty being built into modern biosecurity legislation are just a start.

What do you love about Tasmania?

After visiting Tasmania a couple of decades ago with the family, it was easy for my wife Kath and I to decide that this was the place that we would retire to. Becoming the General Manager of Biosecurity Tasmania nearly a decade ago made that a reality.  We were captured by Tasmania’s natural beauty and the ‘small town’ feel – friendly, smiling service everywhere and a relaxed approach to most things. Kath (being from Northern Ireland originally) also appreciates the climate and I like the summers.

We are now privileged to live in what is a true community in a small town south of Hobart surrounded by beautiful landscapes with crisp clean air. I also get to sail my little pocket cruiser on the amazing waterways near Bruny Island.

Lastly – any exciting plans for retirement?

I would like to continue to be active in biosecurity in some way. To that end, I have taken on the role of Chair of the National Fruit Fly Council. Who would have thought that was where my career in Veterinary Science would lead! I hope other opportunities arise to maintain contact with the many great people I have worked with in biosecurity.

Outside ‘work’, I intend to spend more time with my family in Tasmania and on the mainland, cruising the Tasmanian waters in my little yacht and hopefully more travelling overseas with Kath once that is possible again. Just having more time is exciting!