Media release from Plant and Food Research 14 May 2019
A new walking trail at the Auckland Botanic Gardens gives locals and overseas visitors a chance to learn about New Zealand’s flora as well as the role they play in protecting it.
The Biosecurity Trail is a collaboration between Better Border Biosecurity (B3) and the Auckland Botanic Garden (ABG), funded by Plant and Food Research. The trail’s content and illustrations were developed with assistance from scientists in the B3 Collaboration (Plant & Food Research, AgResearch, Scion, Manaaki Whenua) and the Biosecurity New Zealand’s Plant Health & Environment Laboratory. Visitors can embark on a 1.8 km-long walk round the garden and discover biosecurity facts at their own pace as they admire more than 10,000 native and exotic plants.
Ko Tātou This Is Us, an initiative under Biosecurity 2025, is also promoted within the trail. It recognises the role that every New Zealander needs to play in preventing pests and diseases from getting into New Zealand or helping to stop their spread if they do get here.
Brief information about pests and diseases that threaten New Zealand’s flora and primary industries, including brown marmorated stink bug, myrtle rust and kauri dieback, is displayed at each of the 12 check points along the path. Visitors can scan the QR code at each check point to be directed to either a video or website for additional information on the pest or the disease and how to prevent its spread.
While locals are encouraged to experience the trail, the project team wants to raise biosecurity awareness amongst overseas visitors too.
“Some overseas visitors may not know that New Zealand has some of the strictest biosecurity rules in the world because even a tiny hitch-hiking bug can potentially devastate our primary industries or the beautiful flora and fauna that New Zealand is renowned for,” project leader Manoharie Sandanayaka from Plant and Food Research says.
Currently 15% of the overall visitors to Auckland Botanic Gardens come from overseas, and the Gardens could be the first stop for many of them. The team hopes that visitors can apply the new knowledge to the rest of their stay in New Zealand to help to control existing diseases, for example, cleaning their shoes before and after heading into the forest to help stop the spread of kauri dieback.
“We also want to empower visitors to be our ‘guardians’ so that they’ll abide by our biosecurity rules on repeat revisits or spread the message to friends and family who may be traveling to our country in the future,” Sandanayaka adds.
Dr David Teulon, B3 Director, says that while the trail will help raise the profile of invasive pests and diseases with overseas visitors and the general public, aligned research on the trail will be used to improve New Zealand’s biosecurity system.
Julia Watson, Education and Partnerships co-ordinator of ABG expresses delight to work together with Plant and Food Research and B3. “We believe that the insights our visitors will gain on this trail will be a significant way of engaging them with this important topic.”
Clare Fraser, Manager, 4.7million Programme, Biosecurity 2025, believes the trail is a great way to encourage people to think about their personal connection to biosecurity. “Biosecurity protects our way of life and our livelihoods. It is important everyone is participating in biosecurity by keeping an eye out for unwanted pests and diseases – it takes all of us to protect what we’ve got.”
The trail has just entered a 12-month trial period, during which the project team will continue to improve on the experience based on feedback from visitors. Information sheets in other major languages, in addition to English, will be available later this year.