Vigilance vital in the war against pest plants and animals

  • Published Date 24 Jul 2020

Smothering, strangling, displacing, infecting, browsing, killing. There are many ways pest plants and animals can undermine our biodiversity, put our primary production at risk and, as a consequence, seriously threaten the health of our native and productive plants and animals.

This year's "20-20 Vigilance" Biosecurity Week, which runs between 27-31 July, focuses on understanding the risks posed by pest plants and animals and the importance of remaining vigilant in the face of potential biosecurity breaches that could compromise key New Zealand interests.

Greater Wellington Regional Council biosecurity manager, Davor Bejakovich says, "If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it's that we need to be prepared to adapt to change quickly. If we let our guard down we could face severe damage to native plants, animals and food production.

"The onset of climate change adds another dimension to the risks we face. The changing climate will cause warming and environmental change that will potentially influence the distribution and ability of pests to negatively impact habitats."

New Zealand has a first class, world-renowned multi-level integrated biosecurity system, which includes regional councils. While this secures the nation's borders and mitigates impacts of pests already here, the gold standard is an engaged and vigilant population alert to potential risk.

This year's Biosecurity Week aims to raise public awareness of pest plants and animals, featuring a seven-task schools' quiz organised by the New Zealand Biosecurity Institute in which students are asked to identify a wide range of environmental threats, based on personal observation.

"This year's approach is about building understanding from personal experience. Over time, we hope to develop a culture of vigilance which will help protect against threats to our environment," says Davor.

Greater Wellington's approach to supporting the week will focus on fun, a week-long social media campaign using techniques such as "spot the difference" to encourage students to take a hard look at potential pests, and to know who to report them to at Greater Wellington.

The campaign follows the first anniversary of Greater Wellington's reviewed Regional Pest Management Plan and steps up its efforts to keep the region's biodiversity thriving by continuing its targeted and systematic approach to managing threats posed to regional habitats by pest plants and animals.

The Regional Pest Management Plan 2019-39 identifies 17 pest plants and 12 pest animals for exclusion from the region, eradication or management, with a range of others being kept under watch for inclusion in the plan if necessary.

"The plan delivers a biosecurity management regime that will not only support our efforts to sustain biodiversity in the region, but will help grow and foster it for many years to come," says Davor.

Greater Wellington Environment Committee Chair, Penny Gaylor says, "As well as vigilance, persistence and close co-ordination with the broad range of agencies, voluntary groups and highly motivated people are central to the success of the plan.

"Thanks to the commitment and hard work of volunteers and our community, we've come a long way. However, it will take a truly unified regional effort to keep pest plants and animals at bay. We stand shoulder to shoulder with the biosecurity sector in support of the New Zealand Biosecurity Institute's awareness raising week.

"Every individual effort is a big help, as uncontrolled pest animals and plants will cause terrible damage to the environment, economic, social and cultural values of the Wellington region. We cannot let that happen."

Updated April 27, 2022 at 1:21 PM

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