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New Zealand And USA Unite On Aquatic Pests

4 February, 2005

New Zealand and USA unite on aquatic pests

New Zealand's campaign against aquatic pests will be boosted next week with a visit to Wellington by an outreach specialist from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Joe Starinchak, to address the National Aquatic Pest Awareness group.

Mr Starinchak is the Outreach Coordinator for the Fisheries and Habitat Conservation Program Branch of Invasive Species of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, based in Washington DC, and has already played a strong role in assisting New Zealand with developing strategies on aquatic pests awareness.

The National Aquatic Pest Awareness group's spokesperson Anne Brow said the USA has provided valuable research that New Zealand was able to use in formulating a set of national aquatic pest awareness messages.

"Their cooperation has meant that our National group, formed in August last year, could hit the ground running. It provided a great starting point from which to engage a range of organisations and groups with an interest in protecting our waterways."

Ms Brow said the American experience was particularly helpful in formulating New Zealand's new national boat ramp symbol, launched this summer, to increase public awareness about aquatic hitchhikers.

"The US experience reinforces how lucky we are in New Zealand. Compared to the US we have a small population base, efficient government systems and a willingness among government agencies, industry groups and interest groups to protect our waterways. With the establishment of the National Aquatic Pest Awareness group, we are well placed to deliver programmes and materials that raise awareness about the simple steps everyone can take to stop the spread of aquatic pests." Mr Starinchak will speak to the National Awareness Group at a meeting in Wellington on Wednesday, 9 February.

He will outline how the USA tackles aquatic pests in terms of legislation, partnerships and effective communication strategies dealing with aquatic pest awareness. He will also detail two USA awareness campaigns that engage industry groups and targeted segments of the public that could provide templates for similar awareness projects in New Zealand."

While in New Zealand, Mr Starinchak will also visit the Bay of Plenty and Rotorua to offer advice on aquatic pest awareness programmes in the region.

New Zealand's National Aquatic Awareness Group includes the Department of Conservation, Weedbusters, Land Information New Zealand (LINZ), Ministry for the Environment, Ministry of Fisheries, Biosecurity New Zealand, Fish and Game New Zealand, NIWA, Meridian Energy Ltd, Contact Energy New Zealand, Trustpower Ltd, Mighty River Power New Zealand , Federation of New Zealand Aquatic Societies, Nursery and Gardening Industry Association, Landscape Industry of New Zealand, New Zealand Federation of Coarse Anglers, New Zealand Eel Enhancement Company, and regional councils.

Media contacts: Anne Brow, Aquatic Pest Awareness Officer, Department of Conservation; ph: work (03) 546 9335, mobile (027) 484 8707

PROFILE - Joe Starinchak

Joe Starinchak is the Outreach Coordinator for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Branch of Invasive Species and the national Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force.

He has worked in the conservation field for fourteen years in various capacities for different conservation organizations.

He has led the development of two national social marketing, public awareness and partnership campaigns in the United States, and is visiting New Zealand to demonstrate the value of strategic communications, marketing, branding and formal evaluation processes for raising the profile of environmental issues.

"In the U.S., we have recognised that invasive species represent one of the most complex and urgent challenges we face when addressing natural resource conservation on both global and local levels," Mr Starinchak said.

"Because of this complexity and urgency, we need to think much differently about how we raise awareness regarding the invasive species issue and how we obtain public support for our activities.

"We need to shed the traditional agency-specific, passive approach and become more sophisticated in how we view, communicate and interact with the public."

Mr Starinchak said that in the U.S., conservation was closely aligned with recreational activities.

"This linkage provides us with an opportunity to create targeted communication, education and outreach programs directed toward a part of the public that cares about aquatic resource conservation. These programs are intended to raise issue awareness, provide ownership for this issue and a "Call to Action" that informs and inspires the targeted public to help government agencies in addressing conservation issues." Mr Starinchak said social marketing, public awareness and partnership campaigns were redefining how government communicates to the public on conservation issues, how agencies work together and how they rely on each others' communication networks. The campaigns had also redefined the expectations for public involvement with conservation.

"These campaigns have allowed government to communicate effectively with traditional stakeholders while engaging new stakeholders, like aquarium hobbyists, who have an interest in resource conservation," Mr Starinchak said.


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