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DOC And Auckland Council Host UK Island Biosecurity Project On Learning Exchange

A delegation from the UK-based Biosecurity for LIFE project visited Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf islands last week to learn about island biosecurity and meet the people who do the work to keep the islands predator-free.

The Biosecurity for LIFE project is a partnership between the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the National Trust (UK) and the National Trust for Scotland, all European environmental organisations.

The UK is home to an estimated eight million breeding seabirds. Like New Zealand, invasive mammalian predators threaten the survival of breeding colonies on offshore islands, but until recently biosecurity measures in the UK have had very limited capacity to deal with pest incursions.

“New Zealand is an ideal country to learn from as biosecurity measures in New Zealand have been in place for decades and are quite advanced by comparison,” says Biosecurity for LIFE Project Executive Laura Bambini.

“We are very lucky here in Auckland that many of the pest-free Gulf Islands - which are a world hotspot for seabird species - are open access for visitors. Iwi, Department of Conservation (DOC), Auckland Council, vessel operators and the public visiting the islands work very hard together to prevent predators getting to and establishing on the islands,” says Claire Warren, DOC’s Auckland-based Island Biosecurity Advisor.

“This visit from Biosecurity for LIFE is a wonderful opportunity for staff from our organisations to share each other’s challenges, lessons learned and methodologies so that we can all better protect our biodiversity.”

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The group of 10 conservationists from UK-based NGOs and the public sector visited Rangitoto and Waiheke islands and observed the biosecurity measures reducing the risk of predator incursions. They also heard about the conservation projects taking place to restore the islands’ ecosystems. They exchanged information and experiences on biosecurity policy, strategy and implementation and lessons the UK can learn from New Zealand when it comes to developing national island biosecurity programmes.

Laura Bambini says: “With the current discussion on future needs of biosecurity in the UK, this is a good time to see and learn from New Zealand. We are grateful for the warm welcome our delegation has received from the Department of Conservation, Auckland Council, our New Zealand BirdLife partner, Forest & Bird, and everyone else, and look forward to seeing and hearing how people and organisations are working together to safeguard conservation islands here.”

Rachel Kelleher, General Manager of Auckland Council’s Environmental Services, says: “It is great to see the recognition and efforts internationally to protect pest-free islands and habitats for some of our rarest species. This visit gives us an opportunity to share, and learn, from colleagues and partners around the world. This collaboration is important for the future survival of some of these species - such as seabirds - that know no boundaries.”

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