The B3 Conference is fast becoming the focal point for the New Zealand plant biosecurity community with attendees from within the B3 membership (research, government, industry, academic) and beyond and, on this occasion, a substantial group of visitors from Australia.  Additionally, several satellite meetings were organised around the conference to exploit of the assembly of such like-minded enthusiasts.

The conference also witnessed the signing of an MOU on biosecurity/bioprotection research collaboration between Plant & Food Research and the Institute of Plant Protection (IPP), CAAS, Beijing.

This year’s conference was notable for the number of new faces (new project leaders, post-doctoral researchers and students) and new projects that have resulted from the recently completed B3 Operational Refresh.

“It’s very exciting to see this new capability coming through” says B3 Director David Teulon.  “Providing opportunities to extend the people involved in B3 was one of the things we were very mindful of when undertaking the Refresh, and it’s great to see all those new people at the conference.”

Te Herekiekie Herewini and his colleagues welcomed us to Te Papa with an eloquent Mihi Whakatau.  In his opening address the Hon. Damien O’Connor (Minister for Biosecurity) spoke of biosecurity as one of our greatest challenges and one on which we need to work cooperatively.  He also reemphasised the new brand of Biosecurity NZ – Tiakitanga Pūtaiao Aotearoa – to provide a greater emphasis on this important undertaking.

Two days and 47 presentations later Brittany Pearce, a recent science graduate Tweeted: “arrived home feeling inspired and full of even more passion for NZ biosecurity than before”.

Keynote speaker Prof Sandy Purcell from UC Berkeley) presented an overview of one of the most important biosecurity concerns of today –the plant pathogen Xylella fastidiosa.  Keynote speaker Prof Fang Hao Wan from the IPP highlighted the biosecurity challenges and opportunities of the massive Chinese Belt and Road initiative.  Presentations on B3 research were juxtaposed with presentations from NZ Biological Heritage (NZBH), Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis (CEBRA), SITplus, Te Tira Whakamātaki (TTW), and the Plant Biosecurity CRC (PBCRC) and we heard from the MPI Research Technology and Innovation (RTI) programme and Government Industry Agreement (GIA) for Readiness and Response on science implementation and application.  There were updates on the myrtle rust incursion and Biosecurity 2025 and a challenge to B3 to have greater awareness of Māori biosecurity aspirations within all B3 projects.

This year, there were a number of attendees from industry, who appreciated the opportunity to learn more about B3’s activities: “A really good conference – good balance of topics and presenters,” said Roger Gilbertson from New Zealand Apples & Pears.  “Congratulations on another excellent B3 meeting, “said Stephen Ogden of Market Access Solutionz.

A session on Trans-Tasman research collaboration highlighted the overlapping needs of NZ and Australia and the need to work together.  “We really need to organise ourselves across our respective agencies,” says Marion Healy from DAWR; and there were several plans instigated to get the ball rolling.

The Conference concluded with comments from the B3 government and industry end-users, who all strongly endorsed the B3 concept and the impact its research is making to the NZ biosecurity system.  “B3 is a highly credible, cooperative research organisation from which we’ve seen some excellent research,” said Richard Palmer from Horticulture NZ).

The Conference reinforced B3’s relevance in a constantly evolving biosecurity landscape which, since the last B3 Conference in 2016, has seen the development of the NZBH, GIA, RTI, and Biosecurity 2025.  B3 continues to act as the pre-eminent research provider for science-based plant border biosecurity solutions in NZ and a single point access to the NZ science system for plant border biosecurity research.

B3 thanks AGMARDT and Plant & Food Research for sponsoring the keynote speakers.