AsureQuality, with a history dating back over 100 years, is best known today for providing assurance services to our food and beverage industry. However, as biosecurity surveillance manager Deirdre Nagle explains, the organisation also provides extensive biosecurity services to local and central government.
“We assist these agencies in managing and controlling pests by drawing on scientific expertise, advanced technology and significant experience.”
AsureQuality recently worked with Auckland Council to reduce the spread of kauri dieback within the region.
“We set up standard operating procedures and compliance teams, and used GIS technology to collect compliance data in the field. Using GIS, smartphone technology and data automation allows for real-time analysis. This technology significantly improves the management of field operations.”
In another long-term biosecurity surveillance operation, AsureQuality is working with the Ministry of Primary Industries, leading the National Invasive Ant Surveillance Programme undertaken at ports and other transitional facilities where there’s a high risk of exotic ants arriving from overseas.
“Exotic ants, especially Red Imported Fire Ants, are significant pests which could present a public health challenge for local communities.”
Established ant pests, such as the Argentine ant – which is regarded as a serious threat in reserves and natural areas where it competes with the kiwi and other native birds and lizards for food – are also under the watchful eye of the AsureQuality experts.
“As a result of this programme no significant exotic ant invasions or responses have occurred in the past 10 years,” says Deidre.
The climate around biosecurity has changed from a top-down agency-led activity to one which is everyone’s responsibility, she says.
“The goals of Biosecurity 2025 and the recent ‘This is us’ campaign focus on having a biosecurity team of four million people. As agencies representing the public we need to ensure that we have a social licence to operate, consider how our operational work affects the public, and create opportunities to engage them.
“The increased public interest in Myrtle Rust and the constant reporting of the rust, which affects iconic trees such as the pohutukawa, demonstrate the greater role the general public can take in biosecurity surveillance in the future.”
Boffa Miskell biosecurity consultant Helen Blackie believes new tools and strategies are needed if councils are to provide improved, cost-effective and enhanced monitoring which will provide a better framework for decision-making regarding biodiversity protection.
In 2016/2017, Helen and fellow biosecurity consultant Lee Shapiro worked with Hawke’s Bay Regional Council (HBRC) to establish the Best practice guidelines for the use of PredaSTOP for feral cat control.
“Feral cats are considered significant predators of native wildlife,” says Lee. “They are also vectors for toxoplasmosis which affects sheep, goats and pigs and results in significant economic and welfare impacts.”
PredaSTOP is a relatively new registered toxin for feral cat control in this country. The active ingredient is para-aminopropiophenone or PAPP. The best practice guidelines were based around Lee and Helen’s previous involvement in developing the product, plus data collected from recent feral cat control operations run jointly with the HBRC.
The tested and proven methodologies used in those operations were the basis for a formal document of best practice guidelines to support HBRC and other organisations in using PredaSTOP for feral cat control.
Best practice guidelines for the use of PredaSTOP for feral cat control (2018) outlines in detail how to carry out a control operation for feral cats. It includes a summary of field operation results, the timeframes required for an operation and an overview of the toxin PAPP (including non-target risks). It also covers modes of action, legal requirements and antidote.
It is available as a resource and reference to other regional councils, community groups, the Department of Conservation and any other potential end-users.
Boffa Miskell also prepared a standard Q&A handout for dissemination to landowners and the community. This support document provides a concise summary of what PAPP is, how it is applied for feral cat control, and any potential risks to non-target native species, domestic animals, livestock and people.
Boffa Miskell believes the document will help contribute to the many wide-scale predator control programmes being carried out, including the control of key predators such as mustelids and feral cats.
While there’s no question about the detrimental effects of pests on our biodiversity, a range of critters including rats, possums and birds also pose problems for councils. Local authorities are charged with supplying clean, safe, potable water, free of unwanted bacteria, protozoa, viruses and other waterborne contaminants.
At Filtec, the focus is on removing contaminants and making the water safer.
“The solution frequently lies in the ‘killer application’: ultraviolet [UV] disinfection,” says Craig Freeman, Filtec’s Wellington-based technical director and regional manager.
“A controlled dose of UV inside a stainless-steel chamber containing an array of UV-C lamps deactivates the protozoa at a cellular level and prevents them from multiplying, rendering them inert to consumers.”
This, he says, can be particularly useful in improving the tastes and odour in water supplies prone to experiencing a seasonal influx of organic material like algae. (The Ministry of Health’s NZ Drinking Water Standard [NZDWS] recognises the ability of UV to help keep consumers safe from these micro-organisms.)
Craig says Filtec is working with a large number of local and regional councils across the country and has provided over 200 UV systems for both water and wastewater treatment.
“We have also been a supplier to several advanced oxidation [AOX] projects combining UV disinfection with hydrogen peroxide which creates a hydroxyl element that attacks and decomposes contaminants.”
Hauraki District Council has deployed AOX at both its Waihi and Paeroa water treatment plants. Council’s utilities engineer Dave Richards says the local authority had a “seasonal” problem with the taste and odour of the water from November to April each year and worked with Filtec on a solution.
“AOX was the better option over carbon because it didn’t require a clarifier or carbon filter and we only had a small footprint. AOX is working well,” says Dave.
“Advances in UV technology,” says Craig, “such as long-life, high-intensity lamps and high-tech instrumentation, are bringing benefits to councils by reducing operating costs while ensuring maximum efficacy in a wide variety of challenging water supplies.”
• Patricia Moore is a freelance writer. firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was first published in the December 2018 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.