Didymo, emperor penguins, old man's beard and great white butterflies all have something in common - they are some of the new plants, animals, or microbes constantly arriving on our shores.
New Zealand has a wide network of biosecurity measures to try to avoid them getting far, but some do get through. July is Biosecurity Month, set up to raise awareness of the pests that can cause damage to our environment, economy and health.
"Happy Feet" the emperor penguin that arrived in 2011 was one of the more welcome and popular arrivals. Others such as didymo, or rock snot, which arrived in 2004 are not as popular or easy to control.
Closer to home the great white butterfly was discovered in Nelson in 2010. It has been the subject of a major eradication project since then in an attempt to stop it spreading. It is a major threat to many of our native cress species and to vegetable crops such as broccoli and cauliflower.
When biosecurity is mentioned most people think of the inspectors at our international airports who check passengers' luggage on arrival and X-ray it to try to stop any new diseases, plants or animals crossing our borders. It's not so usual to think of DOC staff inspecting luggage for the same reasons.
It is part of every Department of Conservation ranger's job, however, to ensure they do not spread weeds or diseases between the places they work in, and sometimes it is not that easy. Try cleaning a digger sufficiently before taking it to maintain or build a track. Or checking hundreds of bags of potting mix used for propagating native plants.
For a number of local staff it's a big part of their job to quarantine work equipment and personal gear going to islands such as Motuara or Long in Queen Charlotte Sound – Tōtaranui and Takapourewa (Stephens) or Te Paateka (Maud) in the Pelorus. They've seen everything from live spiders to teddy bears in gear. Even brand new gumboots straight from the shop full of seeds!