Using mobile technology to protect New Zealand from biosecurity threats

  • Beehive. Image - © Plant & Food Research

    Beehive. Image - © Plant & Food Research

  • Kiwifruit orchard.

    Kiwifruit orchard.

  • Brown marmorated stink bug. Image - Birgit Rhode

    Brown marmorated stink bug. Image - Birgit Rhode

Project 2.5

Leader: Stephen Pawson, Scion


One app will not fit all situations. An important part of this research will be teasing out the different demands of the public and particular user groups, such as the forestry and kiwifruit industries.

Currently, there is an 0800 number (0800 80 99 66) to report suspected threats to the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) who then investigate to establish if there is a biosecurity threat, and if so, what can potentially be done to manage or eliminate the threat. More rapid communication to MPI, and others managing biosecurity threats via mobile, including a photo, with date, time and location, has obvious advantages.

Stephen and his team want to link some functions of the app to the existing NatureWatch NZ site, where experts pool their knowledge to identify plants and organisms from photos submitted by “citizen scientists”. This will assist with ensuring that experts can rapidly identify potential risks, and flag these to MPI and those managing biosecurity threats. This will hopefully increase the quality of the reporting from the public without over-whelming biosecurity investigation staff.

The app/s developed will draw on agency data to focus surveillance efforts on high-priority threats. The tool will be tested using two case studies, one targeting public participation, the other targeting primary sector industry participants . Iwi partners (Māori Biosecurity Network and Wakatū Inc.) will participate in the co-development process to incorporate Mātauranga Maori.

The team includes: Stephen Pawson, Scion; Andrea Grant, Scion; Eckehard Brockerhoff, Scion; Jon Sullivan, Lincoln University; and Melanie Mark-Shadbolt, Lincoln University.

Marzano, M., Allen, W., Haight, R.G., Holmes, T.P., Carina H Keskitalo, E., Langer, Lisa E.R., Shadbolt, M., Urquhart, J., & Dandy, N. 2017. The role of the social sciences and economic in understanding and informing tree biosecurity policy and planning: a global summary and synthesis. Biological Invasions 19(11): 3317-3332. DOI:10.1007/s10530-017-1503-4

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Invasive invertebrate threats
In New Zealand there are more than 2000 species of invasive invertebrates already established. Some of these, such as Vespula wasps, have become abundant invaders that threaten our native ecosystems. More invasive invertebrates are continually arriving.

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Weeds in New Zealand are a growing problem. Current research reduces the environmental, economic and social impacts of invasive plants by improving our understanding of how to best manage them with a strong focus on developing biological control programmes.

Weedbusters is about working together to stop weedy plants taking over New Zealand's amazing natural areas- and you can help!

This two-year programme aims to provide an enduring and flexible model for a fast, easy-to-use system that can be used to identify, report and prompt immediate responses to plant and animal pests.

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