A promising pest management career that has included extensive work to help turn the tide on Northland's dwindling kiwi populations has been recognised with a national award.

Kane McElrea, the Northland Regional Council's biosecurity manager — partnerships and strategy, edged out two other finalists from Land Information New Zealand and AgResearch to win the AsureQuality emerging leader award at the New Zealand Biosecurity Awards in Auckland last month.

The awards recognise and celebrate outstanding contributions to the country's biosecurity, and Mr McElrea said he was thrilled with the honour, which was even more special as it was made by his biosecurity peers.

He enjoyed his role, and being able to support and work with Northland communities to protect and improve the region's shared environment.


"In a relatively short time we're already beginning to realise the benefits of those communities' hard work," he said.

"We're seeing more kiwi and other native wildlife starting to become more abundant in places where people are working collectively to restore and protect the environment."

Mr McElrea, 31, was described at the awards as an outstanding individual who over the past 10 years had used a farming background and formal environmental education to forge sustainable community and iwi-led biosecurity programmes, particularly to help protect Northland's kiwi.

Northland Regional Council chairwoman Penny Smart said in his current role Mr McElrea led major pest management programmes, demonstrating great leadership skills at a relatively young age.

"Kane is also able to realise the potential of others around him in an engaging and positive way, and these leadership qualities transfer to his ability to work successfully with Northland's often diverse communities against common biosecurity foes."

Mr McElrea, who has a bachelor's degree in applied environmental science and a marine science diploma, previously worked with the Auckland Council's open sanctuaries, and has more recently been involved with several national biosecurity responses, managed pest incursions (including koi carp), and supported marine pest surveillance programmes.