Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage is taking a direct interest in the infestation of Argentinian ants near the Kapiti Boating Club.
The boating club is the departure point for visitors to Kapiti Island.
"In a letter to me last month, the minister stressed the major risk posed to the conservation values of the island's nature reserve," Kapiti mayor K Gurunathan said.
"She said the Department of Conservation (DoC) will be contacting the regional council and the Kapiti Coast District Council to discuss how best to raise awareness of this issue to local communities."
Ms Sage wrote, "I'm keen to understand what measures you have in place regarding Argentinian ants and how the department can work with your council to reduce the threat of these ants reaching Kapiti Island."
Mr Gurunathan said, "In my response, I told the minister that while the biosecurity of the nature reserve is the responsibility of DoC, the council is keen to help in any measures to protect the island.
"We are working with Greater Wellington Regional Council which has significant experience and expertise in dealing with these ants. For a number of years now I have been in contact with DoC about the lack of a dedicated biosecurity hub to process visitors to the island.
"Some members of the public have also raised this.
"I had stressed that biosecurity checks by transport concession holders, on the tarmac or via nearby cafes can't be considered good practice.
"I welcome the minister's direct interest given DoC's standard response previously has been that biosecurity was the responsibility of the concession holder.
I repeat my call that a dedicated biosecurity hub is important to not only deter pests but also to heighten the visitors' appreciation for biosecurity protocols. I have written to the minister to assure her of our total co-operation with DoC and have invited her to a site visit which will include a tour of the island."
Kapiti mayor K Gurunathan's letter to Eugenie Sage:
Thank you for your letter of June 12 regarding the recent discovery of Argentine ants at the Kapiti Boating Club. Let me say from the onset that this infestation did not come as a surprise to me and some of our locals who have publicly raised this possibility. Last year, it was raised at the AGM of the Raumati South Residents Group and reported in the media. They had warned of the possibility of this infestation spreading to the visitor departure area to Kapiti Island Nature Reserve.
Following the discovery of these ants at the boating club area, my council staff have liaised with your Kapiti Wellington office. We supported the measures implemented and recommended that DoC consult with the Greater Wellington Regional Council's biosecurity department, which has extensive experience in this area.
Greater Wellington is the agency with the statutory responsibility for pest control. On June 12, staff from all three organisations met to discuss the initial response to the discovery, and what more should be done, to ensure the biosecurity risk to Kapiti Island is minimised.
My staff inform me that while the control measures at the boat club were deemed adequate, it was agreed that a more comprehensive biosecurity response already planned by your department, supported by the two councils, was necessary.
I understand that Greater Wellington's advice is that the agencies should focus on effectively implementing the response agreed to at its June 12 meeting rather than on more diffuse public awareness and engagement.
In my capacity as mayor, however, I will use any opportunities available to highlight the need for greater public awareness.
I want to also use this juncture to raise a long standing concern. You will appreciate Kapiti Island, and its spiritual, environmental and biodiversity values, are at the heart of my district's identity. We have repeatedly raised our alarm at the lack of a dedicated, best practice, biosecurity hub to process visitors to the nature reserve.
While temporary measures will help in the short term, we are keen to partner with your department, and others, to incorporate a customised biosecurity hub within a Kapiti Island Gateway Project.
I stress that, while our working relationship with DoC has been excellent, we are cognisant of the fact that the underfunding of your department over many years has made it difficult for your department to achieve the high level of conservation outcomes that my district's environment-conscious community expects.
Minister, I thank you for your personal interest in ensuring the protection of Kapiti Island from biosecurity threats.
Please be assured that my council and community will continue our supportive collaboration.
In case you have not been there before, I would like to take this opportunity to invite you to an official visit into the spiritual heart of my district — Kapiti Island.
I look forward to your positive response to this invitation which will highlight my intention to create opportunities to raise public awareness on the need to protect our Kapiti Island from biosecurity threats.