Tackling invasive pests using environmental DNA tops the NZ Biosecurity Awards

Exceptional biosecurity leadership and its role in protecting our economic security were celebrated tonight at the 2022 New Zealand Biosecurity Awards, said Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor.

Wilderlab's innovative technology, eDNA, won the Mondiale VGL Innovation Award, and took out the Supreme Award, at the 2022 New Zealand Biosecurity Awards prize giving.

“Our precious biodiversity and export sectors both depend on world-class biosecurity,” Damien O’Connor said.

“Wilderlab claimed top spot because of its focus on innovation to protect against a range of biosecurity threats.

“Just a cupful of water is all it takes New Zealand company WilderLab to find invasive pest species.

“The technology developed by Wilderlab detects genetic material in the environment, which means thousands of kilometres of New Zealand’s waterways are being monitored for tens of thousands of species every week.

“Early detection of invasive organisms means we can act quickly to locate and successfully eradicate invasive pest species.”

The New Zealand Biosecurity Awards recognise organisations, volunteers, businesses, iwi, hapū, government, and tamariki around the country who are contributing to biosecurity – in our bush, our oceans and waterways, and in our backyards.

Damien O’Connor also announced Phillip Karaitiana as the winner of this year’s Minister’s Biosecurity Award.

“The Minister’s Biosecurity Award recognises an individual, group or organisation that has contributed at least 10 years of continuous and outstanding service to biosecurity in New Zealand,” Damien O’Connor said.

“Since 1970, Phillip Karaitiana has dedicated his career to protecting Wairoa and Gisborne from pests and diseases. From jumping on a horse and chasing rabbits in the early days to using drones and artificial intelligence now, Phillip has been unwavering in his commitment to his region.

“He’s also a highly respected mentor and educator.”

Damien O’Connor said competition for 2022 New Zealand Biosecurity Award’s 10 categories was the toughest in its six-year history.

“The finalists and winners represent some of New Zealand’s most outstanding biosecurity leaders who are committed to protecting our unique environment from pests and diseases,” Damien O’Connor said.

“They’re at the forefront of a wide variety of exceptional biosecurity-related projects.

“These include protecting hectares of iconic New Zealand landscape from wilding pines, to those galvanising thousands of city dwellers to remove plant and animal pests in their backyards, communities and schools. 

“Those recognised tonight are stepping up to lead efforts to protect and preserve our environment, our food and fibre sector, and our way of life across the motu.

“A feature of successful biosecurity work is the high level of community engagement in projects. I want to acknowledge the leadership at the heart of this success.

“It takes all of us to protect what we’ve got, and these finalists are showing us all how it’s done, and how we can all play a part,” Damien O’Connor said.

The 2022 New Zealand Biosecurity Awards winners:

New Zealand Biosecurity Supreme Award / Mondiale VGL Innovation Award

  • Wilderlab NZ Ltd - Wilderlab and the eDNA revolution in Aotearoa

Minister’s Biosecurity Award

  • Phillip Karaitiana – Gisborne District Council

BioHeritage Challenge Community Award

  • Whakatipu Wilding Conifer Group - Whakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Programme

New Zealand Biosecurity Māori Award 

  • Te Arawa Lakes Trust - Hungatiaki Taiao/Biosecurity

 New Zealand Biosecurity Kura (School) Award

  • Howick Schools’ Moth Plant Competition, Tāmaki Makaurau/ Auckland

 GIA Industry Award

  • Auckland Airport – Creation of a biosecurity culture to make biosecurity matter

 Eagle Technology Local and Central Government Award

  • MPI - National Wilding Conifer Control Programme (WCCP)

 New Zealand Biosecurity Science Award

  • Better Border Biosecurity (B3) - Better Border Biosecurity (B3) Research Collaboration

AsureQuality Emerging Leader Award

  • Ethan McCormick – Pest Free Howick Ward and Friends of Mangemangeroa