A local environmentalist who has led from the grassroots, who never misses an opportunity to spread the word has had his efforts recognised at governmental level.

In fact Taupō-based Dave Cade, commonly known as 'Didymo Dave' is so passionate about biosecurity that after being presented with the New Zealand Biosecurity Minister's Award on Monday evening, he presented Forestry Minister Shane Jones with a Check Clean Dry bumper sticker reading 'Real Men Keep Their Tackle Free of Weeds'.

He received the Minister's Award for being a long-standing champion and volunteer for freshwater biosecurity, pest control and conservation. Dave is a tireless promoter of the Check, Clean, Dry campaign to stop the transfer of freshwater pests and prevent the introduction of new ones.

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As well as his biosecurity work, he is also a voluntary freedom camping ambassador for the Taupō District Council, does pest trapping in the Hinemaiaia Valley to rid it of pests, clears weeds and rubbish, mentors young people having difficulties and has even been known to perform naked rain dances during long, hot dry spells.

Didymo Dave Cade holds up the 1000th rat he has trapped on the Hinemaia River.
Didymo Dave Cade holds up the 1000th rat he has trapped on the Hinemaia River.

The Minister's Biosecurity Award recognises an individual, group or organisation that has at least 10 years of continuous outstanding contribution to biosecurity in New Zealand.

Didymo Dave was one of 10 award winners at the 2019 New Zealand Biosecurity Awards, which were held on Monday evening in Auckland. The supreme award went to Te Arawa Lakes Trust for Te Arawa Catfish Killas, a catfish-extermination programme in Lake Rotoiti.

Biosecurity Minister Damien O'Connor says the awards winners are people who have gone above and beyond to contribute to New Zealand's biosecurity.

"These awards are our way of celebrating them and thanking them for the outstanding work they do." Mr O'Connor said. "David is a very worthy winner....[he] truly illustrates the impact a passionate person can have in making a difference for biosecurity in New Zealand."

Didymo Dave Cade has made the conservation of New Zealand lakes and rivers his life's work. Photo / Anna Elwarth
Didymo Dave Cade has made the conservation of New Zealand lakes and rivers his life's work. Photo / Anna Elwarth

Mr O'Connor is currently engaged in trade talks in Thailand so Forestry Minister Shane Jones presented the award on his behalf.

This year more than 70 entries and nominations were received across all categories, with 25 award finalists.

Didymo Dave says receiving the award is a huge honour, especially as they are usually given to groups rather than individuals.

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He said he was "absolutely rapt" that it would mean extra publicity for the Check Clean Dry campaign and also paid tribute to the other winners.

"It's just a humbling thing standing there with all these other groups in the room and what they're doing, from technology to keep out the marmorated stink bug to kauri dieback and myrtle rust."

Dave says his interest in the environment first arose as a boy, when his family would holiday at Waitahanui, near Taupō where he met his first mentor, local kaumātua Tom Marama who would talk to him about the importance of protecting the river.

Didymo Dave does a rain dance at Lake Otamangakau last summer, waving toetoe and squirting a water bottle to attract rain clouds. Photo / File
Didymo Dave does a rain dance at Lake Otamangakau last summer, waving toetoe and squirting a water bottle to attract rain clouds. Photo / File

He was nominated by Gillian Visser, the owner of Adventure Lodge at National Park where Dave is a regular guest during his visits to the area spreading the Check Clean Dry message for Horizons Regional Council.

Gillian says Dave is tireless in his work to educate everybody he meets about the importance of keeping waterways clean and looking after the environment and will even help scrub people's boots clean to prevent them spreading pests and diseases from place to place.

"When he stays here all I see him do all the time is chatting to our guests and pushing the biosecurity [message].

"Every second of his day he is working towards the safety of New Zealand and he is the most incredible guy...he's so dedicated and he doesn't get any bloody money for it. If every New Zealander thought like him it would be incredible."

Gillian heard about the awards from her daughter Danielle, a PhD student at Massey University. Danielle urged her mother to nominate Dave for the awards.

"She sent me the link and I thought 'this is perfect for him'."

While the nomination was a lot of work and Gillian had to round up supporting statements and evidence to put with it, she's thankful she made the effort and says she was delighted when she heard the good news.

"I was absolutely thrilled and I had a cry."