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Biosecurity excellence in port communities

This five-year project finished in mid-2022.

Project abstract

This project provided science support to the Port of Tauranga Biosecurity Excellence Initiative, a collaboration between industry and government partners to promote biosecurity awareness and behaviours in communities connected to the port.

We contributed in three areas: assessing local biosecurity risk, optimising insect trapping in the port environment, and measuring community awareness of biosecurity.

The insect trapping identified large light traps as being the most effective tools for sampling port biodiversity, especially when augmented with pitfall traps for non-flying species. The traps were effective enough to detect even very rare species, including two new-to-NZ species, but better tools are needed to sort and identify specimens from the bulk samples.

We measured biosecurity awareness and behaviours in several different communities associated with the port: port workers, transitional facility staff, nearby residents, local school children, and growers of kiwifruit, forestry, avocados, and passionfruit.

Growers unanimously supported the importance of biosecurity and most claimed to monitor for unwanted pests, but few practiced rigorous orchard hygiene. They valued economic and operational benefits of biosecurity more highly than social, environmental or cultural benefits.

Port and transitional facility staff rated their knowledge of biosecurity as high, but around half would like more training. The awareness activities run by the Biosecurity Excellence Initiative were seen by most workers and deemed useful.

Local residents felt that the biggest barriers for them in helping with biosecurity were their lack of knowledge, and not knowing what to do to make a difference. Almost a quarter of residents felt they were too busy to help. School children were exposed to an educational kit and Invasion Busters board game, which increased their perception of biosecurity as being important, and this effect persisted for at least six months afterwards. They experienced an immediate increase in confidence about identifying unwanted insects, but were not any more likely to look for insects, tell somebody if they saw an unwanted insect, or to talk to their family about biosecurity. We were surprised to find that the COVID-19 pandemic had little apparent effect in raising awareness of biosecurity issues.

These findings are now being used to better target biosecurity awareness activities for workers, industries, and communities around the Port of Tauranga, and are informing budding initiatives at other New Zealand ports.

Biosecurity outcome

  • A “best practice” template for measuring baseline biosecurity performance in a particular area (e.g. port and surrounds) and monitoring of change
  • Better ways to understand, measure and influence biosecurity awareness in port communities, including general surveillance and social licence to operate
  • With House of Science, improved understanding and awareness of biosecurity in school children, who influence their families and ultimately become biosecurity aware citizens and scientists of the future
  • Improved understanding of the constraints and opportunities for better targeting of pathway interventions, surveillance and eradication practices in and around port environments

Science outcome

  • New social science tools for measuring and maximising impacts of promotional activities on public awareness and support for local biosecurity activities
  • New knowledge, tools and techniques for managing biosecurity, biodiversity and ecology in industrial areas.

For information and publications on this and other B3 projects, visit Zotero. 

The Zotero database can be found on the B3 homepage under ‘Outputs’.