30 June 2015
We're not about tigers and marijuana says Biosecurity Institute
July is Biosecurity Month and those who work in the sector reckon more should be taught about animal and plant pests in schools.
The call from the New Zealand Biosecurity Institute (NZBI) comes on the eve of the month dedicated to highlighting the biosecurity sector.
It follows the recent release of a survey of Auckland schoolchildren which found such a lack of knowledge about unwanted plants and pests, and the effects they could have on the environment, that many considered zoo animals and illicit drugs to be the country's biggest biosecurity threats.
The NZBI thinks it's time the Biosecurity Sector took a higher profile in the community as well as in schools.
The survey of 171 Year 9 students found that around a third could not name an unwanted animal. While some named possums and rats as pests, others listed zoo animals such as tigers, elephants and hippos.
A third could not name an unwanted plant in New Zealand. Those that did named marijuana.
NZBI member Rajesh Ram carried out the survey as part of his studies at the University of Auckland. He said he also found the students lacked knowledge on what effect an unwanted plant or pest could have on the environment.
NZBI President Rebecca Kemp said the students were predominately aged 13 and she would have hoped they had a bit more of an idea about pest plants and animals and the general concept of biosecurity.
Ms Kemp said every year, in the course of their jobs, NZBI members spend hundreds of hours controlling or managing the risks to the economy and the environment from the effects of unwanted pests.
"This is work which costs the country hundreds of millions of dollars each year through control, research and border control budgets. This money is coming out of all New Zealanders' pockets," she said.
"We need everyone to play a part in protecting what's precious and unique about New Zealand."
The NZBI is the professional training and networking organisation for people involved in biosecurity. Its 450 members work for research organisations, educational institutions, regional councils and government departments.
All are involved in protecting NZ from invasive species.
Biosecurity month occurs every July in the run-up to the NZ Biosecurity Institute's Annual Conference.
A group of school children study the pest plant gorse close-up.
NZ Biosecurity President Rebecca Kemp
Year 9 students from Hobsonville Point Secondary School who are involved in the restoration of a site near their school. A nationally critically threatened plant on the site (Epilobium hirtigerum) is being smothered by pest plants. The students and teachers are working on several projects relating to the area, and on promoting biosecurity and biodiversity issues in their wider community.
For further comment please contact: Rebecca Kemp, President, New Zealand Biosecurity Institute: 021 222 9076
Media enquiries please contact: Chris Macann, Editor, Protect Magazine - The Magazine of the New Zealand Biosecurity Institute, phone 03 34 99 660 | 021 878 001
For more information about the New Zealand Biosecurity Institute please visit: www.biosecurity.org.nz