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Seaweed pest control work earns Biosecurity Supreme Award

Posted 04 06 2024

in News

Image: uploads/2024_06/bio-award-winners-20240417_1.webp

A Northland couple’s work with exotic Caulerpa seaweed and their more than a decade’s pest control efforts in the Bay of Islands has helped earn them the New Zealand Biosecurity Supreme Award.

Viki Heta and Arana Rewha (Patukeha, Ngāti Kuta) – nominated by the Northland Regional Council – were named the winners of the Te Uru Kahika Māori Award and Supreme Award at the recent New Zealand Biosecurity Awards, which recognise and celebrate outstanding contributions to protecting our country.  (In addition to the duo, Aki Tai Here, also finalists in the Te Uru Kahika Māori Award, represented Northland's outstanding contributions at the event.)

Council Deputy Chair Tui Shortland says Rana’s curious and observant nature is the reason for the Te Rāwhiti exotic Caulerpa response in Northland.

Viki Heta and Arana of the Te Uru Kahika Māori Award and Supreme Award at the recent New Zealand Biosecurity Awards.

“After noticing an unusual looking seaweed in May last year, Rana (prompted by Viki) contacted the Ministry for Primary Industries who confirmed the sighting was Caulerpa.”

“Since Rana’s initial sighting, Rana and Viki have been heavily involved in the response, on top of their other biosecurity commitments, with Viki taking on the role as operations manager, hapū spokesperson to the media and delivering communications to hapū and the wider community.”

Councillor Shortland says the duo has continuously supported other members of the two hapū that reside in Te Rāwhiti through the ongoing response planning and been very active in the communications space, ensuring signage, fliers and posters are present at nearby boat ramps and distributed through the community.

Rana and Viki have also been trapping in their rohe for more than a decade, mentored by and working alongside some of the best leaders and scientists in the country.

They have provided valuable input into the Predator Free 2050 Elimination Plan for the Rakaumangamanga Peninsula and Viki is supporting the implementation mahi in a coordination and administrative role.

“As ahikāroa, the duo, alongside other members from their whanau and hapū, have been working hard to 'keep the home fires burning' at Te Rāwhiti and Rakaumangamanga by protecting the peninsula and the islands with pest control.”

With their continuous work in pest control Rana and Viki have successfully helped the biodiversity to flourish.

“For example, they have been involved with bringing back the birdsong to the nearby offshore islands in Ipipiri for a very long time, as part of Nga Kaitiaki o Ipipiri Herenga Waaka - The Guardians of the Bay of Islands group, working with Project Island Song.”

She says the duo has only been trapping but also helping with the translocations of taonga endemic/native species back to the islands.

“Today, one can visit these islands and spot reintroduced tieke (saddleback), kākāriki (red-crowned parakeet), toutouwai (North Island robin), pōpokatea (whitehead), pāteke (brown teal), and many more.”

“Most recently, they helped with the release of 180 wētapunga back to the islands with Project Island Song of which Rana is on the committee. They are also certified kiwi handlers.”

Councillor Shortland says among their many achievements, Rana and Viki have also been championing the eradication of Sika deer in Russell Forest and Ngaiotonga Scenic Reserve, leading to a 20-year forest health plan to restore the health and biodiversity of the area.

The due has also continued the on the ground pest control work being involved with Predator Free Rakaumangamanga, a boosted effort to completely eliminate pests from the peninsula.

“Their understanding of the interconnectedness of Ki Uta Ki Tai (the whole environment) is shown in their dedication and commitment to biosecurity across whenua and moana, bringing people together through their passion, drive and commitment to Te Rāwhiti taiao.”

She says with their ongoing work, Rana and Viki have successfully helped biodiversity flourish, bird song return, fauna and flora grow.

“They are helping restore and heal the whenua one project at a time for their rohe to enjoy for generations to come.”


This article was written and published by Northland District Council.