Published: 14 June 2017
An intensive blitz on invasive weed velvetleaf by Waikato Regional Council is a finalist in the Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) EXCELLENCE Awards.
Now in their fourth year, the Awards recognise and celebrate the key leadership role that local government plays in communities around the country.
The velvetleaf biosecurity response is a finalist for the Air New Zealand EXCELLENCE Award for Environmental Impact.
Velvetleaf is one of the world’s worst cropping weeds, a very invasive pest plant that can cause extensive damage to crops.
In 2016, it was discovered in imported fodder beet seed. Through a national awareness campaign, it was subsequently found in a number of Waikato properties linked to maize crops. The council set up its own incursion response team with 50 staff working fulltime on the project over four weeks, visiting 101 farms, completing 29 biosecurity plans for infected properties.
These straightforward plans are now used as a model nationwide.
Judges said the Waikato Regional Council’s Velvetleaf response set the bar for communication and inspection following a biosecurity threat to the primary sector.
“The council has set up an excellent biosecurity response that can be lifted and shifted to other authorities. The Ministry for Primary Industries has adopted the methods used by the Council, a sign of its value.”
Judges said the Environmental Impact category was the strongest in 2017, dealing with real issues around rivers, water, biodiversity and biosecurity. A number of the entries were in the very early stages but with excellent strategy and processes in place the judging panel looks forward to seeing the results of these projects in coming years.
LGNZ President Lawrence Yule said the finalists in the EXCELLENCE Awards showcased outstanding leadership being provided by local government throughout the country.
“Local government is at the centre of every community in New Zealand, helping shape the environment in which we work and play,” Mr Yule says.
“Being named as a finalist is a great achievement and reflects the vision shown by councils and the innovative work being done by staff. The finalists include some truly exceptional projects that are having a profound impact on communities.”
Local authorities were invited to submit award applications in five categories:
Judges for the awards are former Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast, Chair of EQC Sir Maarten Wevers and The New Zealand Initiative’s Executive Director, Dr Oliver Hartwich.