Nominations for Peter Nelson Memorial Trophy

Its the time of the year again when we nominate those within our institute who have made significant contributions to the field of biosecurity. For those in the vertabrate pest field please see the attached information about the Peter Nelson Memorial Trophy and then forward the name of who you think deserves this honour to the committee contact.

Peter_NelsonPeter Charles Nelson

Peter Nelson started work in the printing trade but was taking a leadership role in the rabbit destruction industry by 1967 when he was Supervisor of the Patea-Waitotara Pest Destruction Board based at Maxwell, north of Wanganui. Peter and his Board were one of the first to seriously consider possums as a threat to agriculture and undertook intensive control programmes throughout their Pest Board District. Being based near the Wanganui Poison Factory (now Animal Control Products Ltd) also enabled Peter to have interest and input into bait manufacture with which he was to have some influence from there on.

Peter’s able administration, his drive, enthusiasm and his ‘why not’ approach lead him to being appointed as the first Field Advisor of the Agricultural Pest Destruction Council (APDC). Peter’s role at this national level was to rationalise the number of Pest Boards and to increase efficiency by standardisation and improving the competency levels of pest board management and staff.

Peter quickly realised that there was a need to boost the proficiency levels of field staff to address the new responsibilities for pest management on private land so he worked with the labourers union of the day, the Technical Correspondence Institute and employment experts to form the APDC National Trainee Scheme.

Initially, eight training pest destruction boards were established with the first trainee intake starting in 1970. Trainees were seconded to a training board for six months and then moved on to another and if they proved competent in both practical and theoretical vertebrate pest management could ‘pass out’ of the system and be offered permanent career positions within the industry. In 1977 an ‘On Board’ training scheme was established to cater for those employees not able to be based away from their families for long periods during their training.

At the same time the APDC at the behest of Peter established regular two to three day training courses held primarily in Wanganui and Christchurch to improve the proficiency of pest destruction board supervisors and selected staff. He brought in the experts. These staff also had the opportunity to study for a two-year Certificate of Competence in Pest Destruction recognised by the industry. This course took a minimum of two years to complete.

These training regimes continued until 1989 when local government re-organisation shifted the responsibility of vertebrate pest management to regional councils and unitary authorities. By this time there were enough competent career minded people throughout New Zealand capable of responding to the needs of vertebrate pest management. Many senior pest management staff today came through the APDC trainee programmes.

Peter also took an avid interest in the politics and culture of vertebrate pest management. He was the first secretary of the Institute of Pest Management Officers formed in May 1968 and was President for several years in the 1980’s. He always took a keen interest in the Institute’s affairs which included amongst a list of objectives ‘to promote and maintain a high level of efficiency and standard of service amongst members’.

Peter was also one of five key people that were present at a meeting in July 1993 to form an inter-agency focussed on the development of a co-ordinated programme for possum control. That organisation became the National Possum Control Agencies later that year, an incorporated society of members comprising the Animal Health Board, Department of Conservation, regional councils, Local Government NZ, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry for the Environment, contractors and manufacturers.

Aware that industry change was looming Peter established Pest Management Services Ltd in 1985 and contracted his services to the industry. Initially the only products were Pindone rabbit and possum pellet baits but the successful business went on to capture the market for a large range of pest control products for agricultural, domestic and industrial purposes.

Peter died of cancer in 1998 whilst still in his prime. He was a self-made man, enthusiastic, driven and bold. He had commanding presence with an assertive nature able to captivate an audience.

The Peter Nelson Memorial Trophy is a reminder of Peter’s huge contribution to establishing professionalism within the field of vertebrate pest management in New Zealand. Each year, an individual or organisation will be honoured by the NZ Biosecurity Institute with custody of the trophy, to recognise outstanding achievement within this field.