After years of work to help protect Northland's natural environment from unwanted pests, a senior local authority manager and his employer have been recognised at the inaugural New Zealand Biosecurity Awards.
The Ministry for Primary Industries awards were presented at Parliament. Northland Regional Council biosecurity manager Don McKenzie received a Minister's Biosecurity Award from Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy. acknowledging his 'continuous outstanding contribution' to biosecurity in New Zealand over more than a decade.
Mr McKenzie, who was described by Mr Guy as "a leader in regional biosecurity who has worked tirelessly in Northland delivering world-leading programmes," said the award had caught him by surprise, and he was both thrilled and humbled.
Pests pose a very real threat to the environment and lifestyles enjoyed and treasured by many Northlanders.
"Much of our work with communities has been about enabling them to achieve in pest control, and that's inspiring for me and our team," he said.
"We have so many passionate Northlanders who are making a huge positive difference to our environment, and it's a privilege to be able to work with them and a regional council that supports this approach."
Mr McKenzie's award was not the only recognition for the NRC - its long-running, multi-pronged Marine Biosecurity Programme was highly commended in the awards' government section.
Chairman Bill Shepherd said it was an honour to attend the awards, and see both Mr McKenzie and the council recognised for their hard, often ground-breaking work.
"Council has put a large amount of time, effort and money on behalf of our communities into biosecurity, both land-based and in the marine environment, for many years, and it's fantastic to see that recognised," he said. "Pests pose a very real threat to the environment and lifestyles enjoyed and treasured by many Northlanders."
The council had been directing extra resources into tackling unwanted marine pests, as they had the potential to harm Northland's shellfish, its tourism and marine industries, and add to fouling problems on structures and vessels.
"Council has been the lead advocate for raising national awareness around marine biosecurity and working with other agencies and organisations to lift New Zealand's efforts in this space for almost a decade. We've essentially built a new programme and approach to marine biosecurity, when previously very little was being done in this area," Cr Shepherd added.
This year the council had consulted on a Marine Pathway Plan as a proposed addition to its Regional Pest Management Plan, aimed to improve the way marine pests were managed in Northland.
The proposed plan would require owners/people in charge of vessels entering Northland from other regions, or moving between designated locations within the region, to ensure that there was no more than "light fouling" on the hull and niche areas of their craft.
"Having low levels of biofouling and a clean hull when the vessel moves to a new location means that, regardless of the current pests and future threats, the owner can rest assured their hull won't be helping spread them," he said.
The council had also implemented an intensive boat hull check programme, helped develop a portable inflatable vessel quarantine facility, and joined forces with other regions to form the Top of the North marine pest group, which includes Northland, Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty, with a common website (www.marinepests.nz) and offering information and advice to boaties aimed at reducing the risk of marine pest spread, sharing resources and consistency of requirements.
The council was also a keen supporter of industry initiatives to tackle unwanted pests, and would continue to develop and implement marine biosecurity efforts with other stakeholders, both regionally and nationally.