Northland biosecurity efforts recognised

4 Aug 2017

Long-running efforts to help protect Northland’s precious environment from unwanted pests have seen a senior local authority manager – and his employer – recognised with separate awards at the inaugural New Zealand Biosecurity Awards.

Don McKenzie was recognised with a special Minister’s Biosecurity Award from Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy.The Ministry for Primary Industries awards were held at Parliament, Wednesday 2 August, with Northland Regional Council (NRC) Biosecurity Manager Don McKenzie and council Chairman Bill Shepherd among those attending.

Mr McKenzie was recognised with a special Minister’s Biosecurity Award from Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy acknowledging his ‘continuous outstanding contribution’ to biosecurity in New Zealand over more than a decade.

Described by Mr Guy as “a leader in regional biosecurity who has worked tirelessly in Northland delivering world leading programmes”, Mr McKenzie says the award had caught him totally by surprise and he was both thrilled and humbled by it.

“Much of our work with communities has been about enabling them to achieve in pest control and that’s inspiring for myself and our team,” Mr McKenzie says.  “We have so many passionate Northlanders who are making a huge positive difference to our environment and it’s a privilege to be able to work with them and a regional council that supports this approach.”

Mr McKenzie’s award was not the only recognition for the council; its long-running and multi-pronged Marine Biosecurity Programme also secured the region a ‘highly commended’ award in the awards’ government section.

Chairman Shepherd says it was an honour to attend the awards and see both Mr McKenzie and the council recognised for their hard – and often ground-breaking – work.

“Council has put a large amount of time, effort and money on behalf of our communities into biosecurity – both land-based and in the marine environment – for many years and it’s fantastic to see that recognised.  Pests pose a very real threat to the environment and lifestyles enjoyed and treasured by many Northlanders.”

Chairman Shepherd says the council has been directing extra resources into tackling unwanted marine pests as they have the potential to harm Northland’s shellfish, its tourism and marine industries and add to fouling problems on structures and vessels.

“Council has been the lead advocate for raising national awareness around marine biosecurity and working with other agencies and organisations to lift New Zealand’s efforts in this space for almost a decade.  We’ve essentially built a new programme and approach to marine biosecurity when previously very little was being done in this area.”

Chairman Shepherd says this year council had consulted on a Marine Pathway Plan as a proposed new addition to its Regional Pest Management Plan, aimed at improving the way marine pests are managed in Northland.  The proposed plan will require owners/people in charge of vessels entering Northland from other regions, or moving between designated ‘places’ within the region, to ensure that there’s no more than ‘light fouling’ on the hull and niche areas of their craft.

“Having low levels of biofouling and a clean hull when the vessel moves to a new location means that, regardless of the current pests and future threats, the owner can rest assured their hull won’t be helping spread them.”

The first Marine Pathway Plan in New Zealand to cover an entire region, the plan will be formally notified later this year and will work in conjunction with the council’s existing species-specific rules.

The council has also implemented an intensive boat hull check programme, helped develop a portable inflatable vessel quarantine facility and joined forces with other regions to form the ‘Top of the North’ marine pest group.

“This group, which includes Northland, Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty, shares a common website – www.marinepests.nz – and information and advice to travelling boaties aimed at reducing the risk of marine pest spread, sharing resources and allowing for consistency of requirements.”

Chairman Shepherd says the council is also a keen supporter of industry initiatives to tackle unwanted pests and will continue to develop and implement marine biosecurity efforts with other stakeholders, both regionally and nationally.