2024 New Zealand Biosecurity Awards Winners

The New Zealand Biosecurity Awards 2024 winners have been announced, reflecting the inspiring and diverse biosecurity activities that are happening across New Zealand.

The awards celebrate the people who are working to safeguard New Zealand against unwanted pests and diseases.

Biosecurity New Zealand deputy director-general Stuart Anderson said the finalists represent a wide range of individuals, iwi and community groups, and cover a host of projects that help protect New Zealand from pests and diseases.

Minister’s Biosecurity Award

Winner: Dr Brian Richardson – Scion

As Principal Scientist at Scion, Dr Brian Richardson has championed forest protection over nearly four decades. During this time, he has made significant contributions to New Zealand’s biosecurity responses, weed science and research relating to aerial pesticide applications.

Brian is an internationally recognised expert in forest vegetation management. His expertise in pesticide application has been applied to wilding conifers, where he helped to generate guidelines for effective aerial spraying for their eradication. These guidelines now underpin the Wilding Conifer Control Programme.

He has contributed to technical advisory groups convened to address significant biosecurity incursions from pests, such as the brown marmorated stink bug and painted apple moth.

Through his leadership and involvement in various sector-wide forest biosecurity initiatives Brian has served, most notably on the Forest Biosecurity Council and also served as a board member on many research programmes, including Better Border Biosecurity, BioProtection Research Centre, and Frontline Biosecurity.

Through his lifelong contributions, Brian is passionate about the role science can play in protecting New Zealand’s flora.

New Zealand Biosecurity Supreme Award

Winner: Ngā Hāpu o Te Rāwhiti, Ngāti Kuta rāua Ko Patukeha – R.E.P NZ

New Zealand Biosecurity Māori Award

Winner: Ngā Hāpu o Te Rāwhiti, Ngāti Kuta rāua Ko Patukeha – R.E.P NZ

Discovering exotic Caulerpa seaweed in Te Rāwhiti and taking a key role in the community’s response, helping reintroduce native birds in offshore islands, and a decade of pest eradication on Ipipiri are among the many ways Viki Heta and Arana Rewha are working tirelessly to protect their rohe in the Bay of Islands.

This dynamic duo are a true embodiment of biosecurity champions in Te Tai Tokerau. Rana has earned the titles ‘guardian of the sea’ and ‘reluctant hero’ through his leadership in the Caulerpa response. With his in-depth knowledge of local ocean currents and hydrology, he provided insight to areas where the seaweed may spread in the area. Vicki is leading hui to ensure the hapū and Russell community remain up to date with the response to the exotic pest.

Among their many achievements, Rana and Vicki have been championing the eradication of Sika deer in Russell Forest and Ngaiotonga Scenic Reserve, leading to a 20-year forest health plan to restore the health and biodiversity of the area. Their understanding of the interconnectedness of Ki Uta Ki tai (the whole environment) is shown in their dedication and commitment to biosecurity across whenua and moana, bringing people together through their passion, drive and commitment to Te Rawhiti taiao.

With their ongoing work, Rana and Vicki have successfully helped biodiversity flourish, bird song return, fauna and flora grow. They are helping restore and heal the whenua one project at a time for their rohe to enjoy for generations to come.

BioHeritage Challenge Community Award

Winner: Ōkārito GorseBusters Charitable Trust – Ōkārito GorseBusters

Inspirational, community-led Ōkārito GorseBusters Charitable Trust is leading the way in protecting the habitat of Ōkārito Lagoon – New Zealand’s largest unmodified coastal wetland and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The work of GorseBusters to protect, preserve, and restore bird nesting and whitebait spawning habitats under threat from gorse invasion in the lagoon has become a passion for many, with volunteers arriving from as far away as Auckland (and even from overseas!).

With the phenomenal effort from the community, and support and blessing of mana whenua, the tiny West Coast community of 40 permanent residents has hosted over 1,200 volunteer days in the past three years. Their work has succeeded in controlling gorse over 40 kilometres of shoreline, improving the habitat for whitebait breeding, matuku (Australasian bittern) and kōtuku (white heron).
Through the incredible generosity of the community to biosecurity and biodiversity values, this special place will continue to be some of the best wetland in New Zealand – and the world.

New Zealand Biosecurity Kura (School) Award

Winner: Maeroa Intermediate School – Maeroa Intermediate Gully Restoration Project

A 0.5-hectare gully at Maeroa Intermediate School had been neglected for decades. It had become a dumping ground for rubbish and a breeding ground for pest weeds and animals and was out of bounds to students.

To rectify the situation, the school set up the Maeroa Intermediate Gully Restoration Programme in 2020. After consultation with local experts and the school community, the gully restoration vision and action plan were established, with the initial clearing and planting phase expected to take 12 years.

Since the project began, the students, whānau and local community have cleared weeds and rubbish, grown over 4,000 eco-sourced plants, replanted native trees, and created a lizard habitat and outdoor classroom.

The students are passionate about their outdoor classroom and take visitors on gully tours, showing first-hand the differences they have made to protect their community from unwanted pests and diseases.

GIA Industry Award

Winner: VeritAg – Bringing the Private Sector into the M. bovis Programme

Encouraging a true team of biosecurity champions, VeritAg and their collaborating partner, SVS Labs, facilitated the deployment of 220 veterinary practices to support Biosecurity New Zealand’s Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) Eradication Programme.

The introduction of private veterinary practices brought significant testing capacity to the M. bovis programme, reducing the time farms spent under restriction. Committed to protecting our biosecurity system, VeritAg often worked on urgent cases outside of normal business hours to ensure biosecurity goals were met.

This work has helped lessen the impact of M. bovis on farmers, and deepened and enhanced relationships between private veterinarians and the M. bovis programme. This has assisted in the success of the on-going biosecurity eradication response so far.

Eagle Technology Local and Central Government Award

Winner: Waikato Regional Council – Kauri Protection Programme

‘Southern’ kauri forests are vital to the future of kauri, being predominantly free from kauri disease. For this reason, Waikato Regional Council has ramped up its kauri protection programme, with the aim to inspire and enable rural landowners, community groups, schools, iwi, stakeholders and industry groups to invest in a future that includes healthy kauri forests with giant kauri.

A small Kauri Protection Team promotes and advocates for the ecologically unique southern kauri through science and research, marketing and communications, education and advocacy, and on-the-ground works on private land.

Highlights include the creation of a Wētā Workshop kauri tree model, a visual representation of a mature, healthy ancient kauri and the extent of its vulnerable root system; a kauri virtual reality experience that focuses on the cultural, spiritual and ecological significance of kauri to inspire behaviour change; providing cleaning stations, hygiene kits and equipment to community volunteer groups and businesses that work within or inspire visitors to enter kauri forests; and providing funding of up to 100 per cent to private landowners for fencing to keep stock out of kauri areas.

The work being done is supported by research specific to the region, for example, kauri mapping, stock accessibility.

New Zealand Biosecurity Science Award

Winner: Cawthron Institute – Marine Biosecurity Toolbox Research Programme

New Zealand’s largest marine biosecurity research programme, Marine Biosecurity Toolbox Research Programme has transformed the detection and elimination of invasive marine pests through molecular surveillance technology and analytical platforms. The five-year programme is focused on protecting New Zealand’s marine environments from the impacts of non-indigenous species by developing transformative tools that empower regulators, industry, mana whenua, and the community to effectively manage risk pathways, prevent pest establishment, and detect and respond to new incursions.

The range of tools allow for timely detection to disrupt critical stages of the invasion process through specialised water sampling linking to an app for automated alert systems that enhance the delivery of a robust marine biosecurity system.

Rapid, cheap and effective molecular sampling tools, analytical platforms and protocols have dramatically improved New Zealands ability to detect and monitor marine pests.

Through its work, the programme is fostering a new generation of biosecurity scientists, working in collaboration with Māori-led research for implementing mātauranga Māori and science collaboration for biosecurity outcomes.

Mondiale VGL Innovation Award

Winner: EcoNet Charitable Trust – The innovative EcoNet CAMS Weeds toolkit

Empowering conservation groups is at the heart of the EcoNet Conservation Activity Management System (CAMS) project. An initiative of the EcoNet Charitable Trust, EcoNet CAMS is designed to foster collaboration in conservation across communities and regions by providing a suite of customer relationship management (CRM) and GIS tools.

Designed by experts in consultation with community groups, EcoNet CAMS enables communications and data sharing to foster innovation and improved pest management practices for volunteers, neighbourhood groups, iwi and communities.

The CAMS Weeds toolkit is a Geographic Information System (GIS) that was introduced to address the growing biosecurity threat of invasive weeds across Aotearoa New Zealand. The tool allows information about weeds and weed control to be recorded and shared. It has already had a significant impact for volunteers, solving data sharing problems and inspiring people to collaborate and share the results of their biosecurity work with others.

AsureQuality Emerging Leader Award

Winner: Keeley Grantham – Te Arawa Lakes Trust

Keeley Grantham is an outstanding and passionate member of Te Arawa Lakes Trust who is going above and beyond to inspire the next generation of youth to look after the environment.

Keeley started with the trust in 2020 and began working in the catfish eradication programme a year later. She has taken the role by storm, continuing to drive the development of the Te Arawa Lakes Trust Catfish Killa programme.

Her vision and determination have led to the rapid expansion of the programme into over 36 schools in the Bay of Plenty region. Through the programme, tāmariki learn about aquatic pests and their impact on our taonga species. Recently, Keeley consolidated the teachings of the programme into a series of educational recourses and has successfully aligned these with NCEA credits to high levels of secondary education to capture a whole new generation of Catfish Killas.

Keeley’s work is not limited to the Catfish Killas. Her dedication to protect our taonga has led her to attain a New Zealand Domestic Maritime Operations Qualification, enabling her to work at the helm of the Te Arawa Lakes Trust commercial vessel, assisting with setting nets to catch and remove catfish from the hard-to-reach areas of Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes. Keeley is also the driving force behind Te Tūkohu Ngāwhā – Mātauranga Māori Science Fair – New Zealand’s only science fair dedicated to Mātauranga Māori, demonstrating her passion for education and providing opportunities for our rangatahi to thrive.

Keeley’s contribution to the community and biosecurity is outstanding, inspiring rangatahi through her engagement with kura and instilling a passion for te taiao. Embodying all the values of a kaitiaki, Keeley is an inspirational biosecurity warrior.

Source:  Ministry for Primary Industries

Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog