Chief Plant Health Manager, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
Mike Ashton joined the then Queensland Department of Primary Industries in 1985 as a cadet biosecurity inspector. This has led to a 35-yeear career in a range of roles in plant biosecurity and business management. Mike initially worked as a regulatory officer for the department, and for AQIS as an export inspector, from 1985 to 1995.
In late 1995, Mike joined the response to the papaya fruit fly outbreak in Far North Queensland and in that role he developed the pilot of the Interstate Certification Assurance (ICA) Scheme, a plant health certification scheme based on quality management principles. He subsequently went on to develop the ICA Scheme into a national scheme administered by all states and territories which enables businesses to be accredited to issue plant health assurance certificates for plants and plant produce.
Mike went on to lead the National Citrus Canker Eradication Program from 2004 to 2009, which successfully eradicated citrus canker from the major citrus growing area of Emerald in Queensland. Mike was appointed to the role of Business Manager for the Horticulture and Forestry Science Program in 2010-11, and he also led the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program in south-east Queensland from 2013 to 2014.
During his career, Mike has played key roles in a significant number of pest and disease incident responses in Queensland, including papaya fruit fly, citrus canker, black Sigatoka, sugar cane smut, myrtle rust, Panama TR4, varroa mite, red imported fire ant, electric ant and cucumber green mottle mosaic virus to name just a few. He has also contributed to many more nationally significant plant pest incident responses in other states and territories.
Mike is currently Chief Plant Health Manager for Queensland and General Manager for the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries’ Plant Biosecurity and Product Integrity Program. Mike represents Queensland on a number of national biosecurity related committees including at Plant Health Australia, Plant Health Committee, the Consultative Committee on Emergency Plant Pests, National Fruit Fly Council, National Vine Biosecurity Committee and National Bee Biosecurity Program Steering Committee.
Mike was the recipient of the David Banks Lifetime Achievement Award, awarded as part of the 2019 Australian Biosecurity Awards.