The threat of losing Mauao's iconic pohutukawa to a foreign virus has prompted the coming together of 19 Tauranga-based organisations in what is believed to be a New Zealand first.

The newly-formed Tauranga Moana Biosecurity Capital is tasked with strengthening protection for our borders from invasive pests and devastating viruses. The collective plans to increase awareness among the local population and advocate for better biosecurity.

Group co-chair Graeme Marshall said he believed the group was the first regional collective to form with the biosecurity focus in mind. He hoped their efforts would help inspire others.

"It's really about Tauranga Moana Biosecurity Capital being an exemplar at a local level and how this can be implemented," he said.

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The collective includes representatives from Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngati Ranginui, Ngāti Pūkenga, Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Department of Conservation, Biosecurity New Zealand, House of Science, Forest Owners Association, New Zealand Avocado, NZ Landcare, Tauranga City Council, Trevelyan's, Kiwi Vine Health, Port of Tauranga, Zespri, Western Bay of Plenty District Council, B3, University of Waikato, and New Zealand's Biological Heritage.

The group's formation comes as a national biosecurity Ko Tātou This Is Us campaign launches this weekend.

"What we are endeavouring to do is to really highlight the fact that what's at risk is how we live, how we work and how we play, and really get that home to people so people know they have a part to play here," Marshall said.

Tauranga Moana Biosecurity Capital co-chairmen Graeme Marshall and Carlton Bidois. Photo/Andrew Warner
Tauranga Moana Biosecurity Capital co-chairmen Graeme Marshall and Carlton Bidois. Photo/Andrew Warner

Marshall said the collective formed following concern, particularly at an iwi level, surrounding the threat of myrtle rust on Mauao's pohutukawa trees. The Bay's fight against PSA in recent years was also fresh in the minds of those involved.

Kiwifruit Vine Health (KVH) chief executive Stu Hutchings said the Bay of Plenty had such a strong port and horticulture industry that a vigilant biosecurity network was vital.

"We only have to think of the days when PSA came in. It wasn't just the growers who were affected. It was shops, schools, businesses, truckies. The whole community felt the impact of it."

KVH was established in December 2010 to lead the industry response to PSA with the kiwifruit disease which devastated the sector.

In March this year, a Colmar Brunton poll found 61 per cent of New Zealanders understood what biosecurity was and why it was important, but only 2 per cent thought it was relative to them.

The Ministry for Primary Industries has set a target of increasing the 61 per cent to 75 per cent by 2025.

Biosecurity Minister Damien O'Connor applauded the Tauranga Moana Biosecurity Capital's efforts and will be here to officially launch it on October 16.

"The Tauranga Moana Biosecurity Capital concept shows leadership by local people who are working together to protect their region. It'd be great to see more of the same spring up," O'Connor said.

Why better knowledge is important

When asked 'What, if anything, prevents you from taking a greater role in helping to protect New Zealand from unwanted pests, weeds, and diseases?' New Zealanders responded:

I don't know what I can do to make a difference - 49%
I do not have time/too busy - 31%
I'm physically unable to help - 15%
What I can do won't make a difference overall - 6%
Lack of knowledge (non-specific) - 3%
It's not my problem - 2%
The introduction of unwanted pests and weeds would not affect me - 2%
Not in specific areas/come into contact with unwanted pests - 1%
Something else (please tell us) - 3%
Don't know -10%
- Colmar Brunton poll, Ministry of Primary Industries

How to help

* visit and 'like' our Tauranga Moana Biosecurity Capital page (https://www.facebook.com/taurangabiocapital/)
* attend biosecurity week events around Tauranga Moana on Oct 15-21
* spread the word - talk to others about why biosecurity matters
* if you, your business or community group wants to be involved in TMBC, visit www.tmbiosecurity.co.nz for information
* for livestock health concerns or bugs or plants that are weird, invasive or new, take action. Snap a photo and call MPI on 0800 80 99 66 or visit www.mpi.govt.nz