Author Archive

Summer Scholar Presentations 2022-2023

Thursday, March 23rd, 2023

Bioprotection Aotearoa are proud to foster an inclusive learning environment that awhi (care and nurture) our early career researchers through broad networking opportunities. The summer of 2022-2023 saw our Summer Scholar program with a total of 10 students being introduced to research work in the lab and out in the field. Mentoring and fostering this relationship to pass on knowledge to the next generation of bioprotection leaders.

The students all gave fascinating research talks and were clearly excited about doing science. All of them had learnt a variety of new skills and were pleased to be able to spend lots of time in the field and lab after online learning during COVID had reduced opportunities for this cohort to get practical skills. Thanks to all the supervisors, ECRs and lab groups that supported our summer students – it makes a huge difference when they feel that manaakitanga! – Dr. Margaret Stanley, Professor at Auckland University

To watch their presentations, see here. 

How to Hack a Hackathon with Dr. Franca Buelow

Tuesday, March 21st, 2023

“Science – Research, to me is the ultimate endeavour to stay curious, learn and evolve…How fun and satisfying is it to explore solutions to problems, to innovate, talk about and to connect.” – Dr. Frana Buelow (ECR)

Focusing on the principles of change management, Dr. Franca Buelow has always had a keen interest to understand what drives people and organisations to adapt. On the 11th of May, Franca is leading a masterful blend of research, practice, and collaboration in a hackathon for Bioprotection Aotearoa (BA).

The hackathon is a one-day sprint-like event, in which a team of people are exposed to a problem or challenge that requires an interactive way of problem solving, introducing the concept of impact.

Early Career Researchers and affiliate BA researchers are invited to attend, to better understand the dynamics of change and more importantly connect. “To explore impact, and what do we mean by impact? How can we approach it? plan for it and create impact in and with our own work” says Franca. “Our one-day mini-hackathon is packed with opportunities to explore purpose, vision, mātauranga, networking and relationship building, funding, communication and storytelling, outreach to stakeholders, policymakers and ultimately end-users.”

Franca is no stranger to hackathons, after being involved in these events as a mentor and organiser both here in Aotearoa and her homeland, in Germany. “I’ve always loved hackathons because they allow you to approach problems as a team; you go home tired and energised at the same time, you innovate and create, you talk and think. It’s a bubbly, energetic way to create and explore ideas,” says Franca.

The event also promises a unique experience for both researchers and mentors who are attending. “Food is essential, movement is essential, and looking for a balance between high-input, high alert modes as well as insightful breathing spaces with a gentler pace. We are currently working with a Tai Chi teacher who can help us regulate and focus,” Franca says.

Understanding our decisions and pathways for adaptation has always sparked Franca’s fascination and has helped her to work in interdisciplinary contexts with a people – focus, and in different environments. Franca is eager to facilitate this event and cater to the different needs of personality types and creativity. “I’d also love to help translate findings in a creative way, where science and story come together to motivate and encourage. I hope that the event will empower all of BA’s ECRs to embrace impact in their work and then hopefully collaborate to co-create impact in the future” says Franca.

For more information on this up-and-coming event or to register your interest, see here.

Te Pū Whetū o te Taiao

Wednesday, December 14th, 2022

Descending from across Aotearoa, members of Bioprotection Aotearoa (BA) gathered before the gates of Ōnuku Marae, Akaroa, to participate in our inaugural Noho Marae.

Through the playful sounds of the harbour waters and the native birds singing nearby, the karanga rang out – the first voice of Tangata Whenua calling our rōpū to begin their whakaeke, advancement into the Marae.

For many attendees, not only was it the first time meeting kanohi-ki-te-kanohi (face to face), it was their first time on a Marae.

Director, Professor Amanda Black (Tuhoe, Whakatōhea, Te Whānau ā Apanui) says in the wake of the pandemic, it was important “to get people to connect to one another on a personal and professional level, and this Noho Marae was the proper way to do it.”

The two-day event was filled with experiences and knowledge-sharing opportunities that built whanaungatanga, strengthened relationships, and connections, and fostered kotahitanga for everyone in attendance.

In addition to these strong themes, the following kōrero was expressed during the poroporoaki, the farewell speeches at the end of our noho.

“This wānanga showed that we can actually all work together. In science and the system that we have, there are some silent and invisible barriers that exist. But Bioprotection Aotearoa disproves that. It shows that we can all work together, despite that we are ngā hau e whā.”

Many hands united, working together to ensure the success of this event. Before we share some of these highlights, we would like to take this time to acknowledge Te Ahi Kā ō Ōnuku; Uncle Bruce Robinson, Corey Ackerman, Pip Tainui and Rei Tainui for welcoming and sharing their manaakitanga with us.

Mā whero, mā pango, ka oti te mahi

Unity: through red (chiefs) and black (the tribe) the work will be done.

Early Career Researcher, Tere Porter-Rawiri sharing a presentation at Ōnuku Marae

ECR Research Presentations

Our Early Career Researchers (ECRs) kicked off our programme with three-minute presentations, offering a ‘taster’ into their research.

The treasury of bioprotection knowledge emerging from our ECR’s, demonstrated the depth of multi-disciplinary research transpiring from each pou of our research framework, Te Taiao-a-rangi.

From here, thoughts were flying which later stimulated conversations around the potential for collaborations accross pou and projects.

Pipi Journeys taking a group from Bioprotection Aotearoa on a cruise around Akaroa Habour

Boat trip on Akaroa Habour

Later that afternoon, activities were offered to experience the natural beauty of the Horomaka (Banks Peninsula). Pipi Journeys took a group for a sunset cruise to learn about the Māori connection to the area and it’s rich history.

Aunty Pip Tainui explained that prior to the European settlers arriving, the area was a thriving hub of trade, predominantly harakeke (flax) and food for early whalers and visitors who were looking to replenish supplies.

Many different hapū had settlements in the Horomaka. But after the Treaty was signed in Ōnuku, in 1840, land ownership across the peninsula, transferred from Māori to the crown.  This left, only a small area of land reserved for Māori ownership, where Ōnuku Marae now stands.

Hugh Wilson, Hinewai Reserve Manager entertaining another group from Bioprotection Aotearoa

Tour around Hinewai Reserve

Far away on the hills of the Horomaka, another group enjoyed a tour around Hinewai Reserve.  Hinewai is an ecological restoration project, privately owned and managed by the Maurice White Native Forest Trust, but freely open to the public on foot.

The touring group was entertained by Reserve Manager, Hugh Wilson, sharing his delightful korero of the restoration efforts over the past 30 years.

One of the main goals was to support the natural regeneration of native vegetation and wildlife. “We are not replanting it, nature is doing most of the work,” Hugh boasted to the group. “It’s not about what is lost, it’s about what is still here.”

Jaleesa Panirau, Chair of Wairewa Rūnanga (left) and Mananui Ramsden, Chair of Te Rūnaka o Koukourarata (right)

Discussion panel with local rūnanga

On day two, the morning started with a panel discussion with invited mana whenua Mananui Ramsden (Te Rūnaka o Koukourarata) and Jalessa Panirau (Wairewa Rūnanga).

Discussions were rich in the exploration of adequate engagement and relationship building between mana whenua and research institutions.

The depth and quality of the relationship are often diminished by the restriction surrounding the timeline of a project, and often when engagement is sought the research is already at 60%.

“Just because the intent is good, doesn’t mean we can apply pressure.  Be patient to build capacity,” shared Mananui.

“We have so many organisations come at us at once,” added Jaleesa.  “For Wairewa, it’s the way you engage with us.  If you mixed our Mātauranga with your science, that’s a beautiful thing.”

The panel agreed that the depth of the relationship will go a long way when nurtured with patience and value beyond the project’s funded timeline.

“Research aligned with a community voice is actually powerful as a collective.  There is something in this collective power,” says Mananui.

Nicola Toki, Chief Executive of Forest and Bird, presenting at Ōnuku Marae

Guest speaker, Nicola Toki, Chief Executive of Forest & Bird

Forest & Bird Chief Executive Nicola Toki, captivated the next session with her storytelling, reminding everyone about the power of science communication that resonates across communities and speaks to everyone’s hearing.

Nicola encouraged researchers to speak in a voice that resonates with a wider audience, including decision-makers, communities, Iwi, politicians, and business. “Particularly as people who hold knowledge, this is just so crucial.”

Nicola says that it doesn’t matter where scientists and researchers end up working, whether they are at a research institution or an NGO, what matters is their influence and input.

“Don’t underestimate the power of being able to describe connection,” Nicola shares.  “The power of connection with people, that’s massive!  The ability to demonstrate to people, the connection between the web of life and how that impacts us and future generations is crucial.”

Nicola doesn’t think she hears enough of this and believes Bioprotection Aotearoa has the ability to draw these threads of connection, which is powerful.

Local weavers Cathy Payne (Left) and Lisa Harding (Right) from the Kahu Collective

Weaving with the Kahu Collective

Joining us for our noho Marae, was the Kahu Collective, a group of local weavers from Ōtautahi who all share a passion for Raranga (weaving) and want to awaken the world to both its beauty and healing properties.

They ran a workshop alongside our programme, guiding us on how to weave harakeke and sharing a little bit about the history and tikanga involved in this beautiful traditional art.  By the end of our noho we collectively wove a tukutuku panel, filled with our own stories, and a design that embodies our values as a CoRE.

Te Pū Whetū o te Taiao – Aspiring to the highest pinnacle of science. The name gifted by Huata Arahanga during the poroporaki (farewell speeches).

Jamilah Limu Ward from Waharoa co-op café and boutique catering

Nourishing kai

Keeping us all well nourished, was Waharoa co-op café and boutique catering.  Their food was plentiful, ensuring all dietary requirements were covered.  The generosity and care by Jamilah and her team ensured everyone was well fed and energised with their gift of wholesome kai.

Behind the scenes with Maui Studios, and their camera operator Max Tiweka

Documenting our kaupapa

Behind the scenes was Maui Studios quietly capturing and documenting our experience.  They are a team of passionate creative practitioners, who shone a light on our Kaupapa with their story telling abilities.

Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini

Success is not the work of an individual, but the work of many

Prestigious accolades awarded to Bioprotection Aotearoa researchers

Tuesday, December 13th, 2022

From top left to bottom right: Dr Julie Deslippe, Professor Murray Cox, Professor Ann Brower, Distinguished Professor Philip Hulme.

After a long and challenging year, Bioprotection Aotearoa (BA) has been given many reasons to celebrate during this last quarter of 2022.

Four researchers have been awarded a collection of prestigious accolades for their world-leading research and contributions toward advancing fundamental knowledge in their relevant fields.

“Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou, Professor Ann Brower, Dr Julie Deslippe, Professor Murray Cox, and Distinguished Professor Philip Hulme, for being recognised for your leadership and impact,” says Professor Amanda Black, Director of Bioprotection Aotearoa.

Professor Ann Brower has won Te Apārangi Royal Society 2022 Charles Fleming Award for Environmental Achievement. Photo credit: Royal Society Te Apārangi

Professor Ann Brower

Professor Ann Brower (University of Canterbury) was named winner of Te Apārangi Royal Society 2022 Charles Fleming Award for Environmental Achievement, for the protection of the New Zealand environment, an award that is only offered every three years.

She was recognised for her pioneering interdisciplinary research that challenged the foundations of high country tenure review, and catalysed legislative reform to improve the conservation of New Zealand’s unique landscapes and biodiversity.

Loss of habitat is an ongoing threat to native biodiversity. Almost single handedly, Ann discovered that a quiet administrative process (tenure review of Crown leasehold land), over large land areas, was delivering negative biodiversity outcomes at high cost to the taxpayer. Few academics can say their work has protected 5% of New Zealand’s landmass.


Dr Julie Deslippe awarded a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship

Dr Julie Deslippe

Dr Julie Deslippe (Te Heranga Waka Victoria University of Wellington) has been awarded a Rutherford Discovery Fellowship for research titled ‘Plant-soil interactions, biodiversity and mountain ecosystem function in an era of global change’

In her Rutherford Discovery Fellowship, Dr Deslippe will investigate the details behind plant interactions with mycorrhizal fungi, capitalising on her connections through the WaRM (Warming and Removals in Mountains) network.

This collaboration of field experiments across ten countries provides an unparalleled opportunity to develop an understanding of plant-mycorrhizal control on the carbon cycle.

Dr Deslippe will use DNA sequencing technology, inventive carbon-tracking, and state-of-the-art ecological modelling to determine how changes in biodiversity and climate alter this key ecosystem function.

In tackling this grand challenge, her research aims to underpin effective bi-cultural management the unique biological heritage in Aotearoa and deliver vital tools to support native biodiversity worldwide.


Professor Murray Cox awarded the 2022 Hector Medal. Photo credit: Royal Society Te Apārangi

Professor Murray Cox

Professor Murray Cox FRSNZ, University of Massey Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa, has been awarded the Hector Medal for major advances in population genetic theory and the innovative development of associated computational methods that have delivered deep insight into genome evolution.

Murray couples innovative advances in population genetics and complex systems theory, with the development of practical computational tools, allowing him to make striking new discoveries about the biological world from vast population and genome datasets.

His major breakthroughs include:

  • discovering a previously unknown species of archaic human living in the Pacific region
  • identifying the limits to which functional information from European genetic datasets can be transferred to Pacific communities
  • identifying new mechanisms for how the 3D structure of DNA in a cell’s nucleus coordinates gene expression.


Distinguished Professor Philip Hulme awarded the Te Tohu Taiao award for ecological excellence by the New Zealand Ecological Society. Photo Credit: New Zealand Ecological Society

Distinguished Professor Philip Hulme

Distinguished Professor Philip Hulme (Lincoln University) was presented with the Te Tohu Taiao award for ecological excellence by the New Zealand Ecological Society at their conference dinner on 1st December 2022.

The award is presented annually to recognise individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the study of ecology in New Zealand and have had a sustained impact on conservation and management of our unique natural environment.

Professor Hulme’s nomination detailed his ground-breaking research on plant invasions that has reinvigorated the discipline over the last two decades and its subsequent national as well as international impact that has seen him ranked among the top 0.1% of scientists worldwide in each of the last nine years.

“Past recipients of the Te Tohu Taiao award include many of the foremost New Zealand ecologist of the last 30 years and it is particularly humbling to be in such illustrious company” said Professor Hulme on receiving the award.

In closing his acceptance speech, Professor Hulme highlighted the risks facing New Zealand as the resources to manage weeds on our conservation estate have been progressively reduced resulting in the problem only getting worse and leaving a legacy of weed infested ecosystems to be managed by future generations.

Introducing our cohort of summer scholars for 2022!

Thursday, December 8th, 2022

First Row: Ella Speers, Tara Curtis, Zsaleya Sword-Tua. Second Row: Ciel Baumann, Liadan Dickie, Oscar Bellett. Third Row: Haig Bishop, Bella Perham, Pearl Ruston

Nine students have been placed across Aotearoa to kick start their summer internship with Bioprotection Aotearoa (BA), participating in research and gaining practical experiences and skills.

Their journey began with a Noho Marae at Ōnuku in Canterbury, getting to know the BA whānau and learning more about it’s kaupapa.

After building a sense of belonging, they respectively ventured off to begin their own programmes of research under the guidance and mentoring of fellow Early Career Researchers and supervisors.

Liadan Dickie is completing her internship at Lincoln University, mentored by Postdoctoral Fellow Alexa Byers.  Her main project will use qPCR to investigate Phytophthora communities in Kaituna Valley, which she is currently writing a proposal for.

In between all this, Liadan says she has also been given opportunities to “practice DNA extraction techniques, subculture and examine Phytophthora isolates, set up some river baiting trials for Phytophthora, conduct a literature review, and help out with an experiment looking at the effects of drought on soils.”

Zsaleya Sword-Tua is working out of Otago University.  Zsaleya says she has been learning things every day since her internship began, looking for wing malformations on bees to see if the degree of deformity is associated with varying levels of varroa mite.

“This is to see if we can use prognostic tools to understand the health of beehives” Zsaleya says,  “It has been an awesome experience, getting to see first-hand how work is done with bees.”

Both Liadan and Zsaleya agree that their time so far with BA has provided them with a variety of experiences and opportunities.

“So far, my studentship has provided me with experience across a range of different things and I look forward to what’s next to come.” says Zsaleya.  Liadan adds “I’ve already learnt a lot and feel inspired to keep learning more.”

In April 2023, all summer scholar recipients will present their research in an online webinar.

Fighting crop pathogens with viruses

Wednesday, November 30th, 2022

Nils Birkholz presenting his research at a Bioprotection Aotearoa hui, at Ōnuku Marae, Canterbury

This year has been a big one for molecular microbiologist and Postdoctoral Fellow at Bioprotection Aotearoa, Nils Birkholz. Highlights include publishing four papers in high-impact journals and presenting at two domestic and international conferences. His research, with supervisor Peter Fineran in Pou 2, aims to characterise the interactions between bacteria and the viruses that infect them, named bacteriophages (or phages for short).

Phages are extremely abundant in every environment and outnumber the bacteria that they prey on, says Nils. In nature, the relationship between bacteria and phages is ecologically important “because they impact bacterial populations everywhere, basically keeping bacteria ‘in check’”.

In April, Nils, Peter, and Bioprotection Aotearoa colleagues Simon Jackson and Robert Fagerlund published a paper in Nucleic Acids Research that analysed a certain type of defence system in Pectobacterium, a bacterium that causes diseases such as soft rot in potatoes and other crops.

This defence system provided strong protection against phage infection but also shut off another defence system in the same strain of the bacteria. This surprising interplay between different defences is under-researched but important as it impacts how the bacteria can be infected by bacteriophages. In this case, the kind of phage the bacterium is susceptible to depends on which defence system is active, which is why this research is valuable.

Their research also suggests that closely related or co-existing strains may differ with regards to the defence systems that are active or inactivated, which also changes the overall population’s susceptibility to phages.

This finding has implications for potential applications such as using phages to get rid of harmful bacteria or pests. In addition, the research could be applicable to other bacteria in the future. The team are using Pectobacterium as a model system because the system and genome sequences are well understood. However, they know that similar defence systems occur in other bacteria.

This point that specific findings may sometimes apply more widely is highlighted by another paper with contributions from Nils and Peter. Nils says that this second paper, primarily authored by Chris Brown’s group at the Department of Biochemistry at Otago, “shows that a type of regulation that we and others have found in particular model systems actually applies across many unrelated bacteria”.

Nils and Peter are also collaborating with a group in Korea to study the anti-defence mechanisms of phages. Together, they have published two papers on this subject, showing how phages control the production of anti-defence proteins that allow them to thrive on bacterial strains which they could not otherwise infect. Nils’ ongoing research attempts to further unravel the unexpected complexity of this regulation.

Nils says their research has important implications for agriculture and pests, since many of our economically important plants are impacted by bacterial and viral pathogens. While this research is not aimed at finding immediate solutions, discovering more about the bacteria-phage interactions and defence systems is critical to finding long-term bioprotection strategies.

Nils has reported on their research at two conferences this year. The Viruses of Microbes conference, held in July in Portugal, had over 600 delegates, all working on aspects of the interaction between viruses and microorganisms.

Nils says, “It was very interesting to see what others are working on and draw some inspiration. I knew many of these people by name only, so meeting them in real life was a nice experience.”

Nils also presented and won a speaker prize in August at the Queenstown Research Week CRISPR satellite meeting, which was a smaller but highly collaborative event.

Nils says he is enjoying the connections with other Early Career Researchers in Bioprotection Aotearoa.  “It’s a great opportunity being able to talk to them, listening to what they are working on and how they are experiencing their PhDs and postdocs”.

A recent noho (stay) at Ōnuku Marae was particularly valuable for Nils who originally comes from Germany.

“From my perspective as a “foreigner” I didn’t know much about Māori culture before I came to New Zealand. The event gave me a much greater appreciation of Māori culture due to the setting at the Marae and all the background that was provided by the team at Bioprotection Aotearoa.”

Nils says this was an awesome experience that he will remember for a very long time.

How do human disturbances impact soil microbes?

Tuesday, November 29th, 2022

Research team scoping Great Barrier Island. From left, Maui Duley, Alexa Byers, Prof. Amanda Black, and Dr. Nick Waipara

Soil microbes are central to life on Earth. They recycle nutrients, regulate water quality, support plant productivity, and sequester carbon. However, the microbes in soil change in response to disturbances, affecting the way they behave and in turn the many systems that rely on them.

Alexa Byers, a postdoctoral researcher at Bioprotection Aotearoa, is investigating the soil health of natural and productive ecosystems to understand the response of soil microbes to threats such as pathogen invasion, human disturbance and climate change.

Alexa is involved in two projects at Bioprotection Aotearoa. The first project on kauri dieback disease (Phytophthora agathidicida) involves screening kauri forest soils for the production of bio-active compounds that have the potential to suppress kauri dieback. This project has involved a large amount of fieldwork on the North Island, including trips to the remote Great Barrier Island, Northland and Auckland.

The work is critical, in part, because kauri forests are so important to Māori communities. Alexa and her supervisor, Professor Amanda Black (Tuhoe, Whakatōhea, Te Whānau ā Apanui), have done a lot of engagement work with multiple iwi in Northland to explain the research and involve them.

Alexa says, “It’s important to just be open about what we’re doing, asking them questions about how we can help and listening to their contributions.”

This engagement has taken time. Alexa says, “Science sometimes moves at a fast pace and when you engage with communities you can’t rush things. You need to give people time to think. That has been a learning curve, that it’s not fair on them to be rushed.”

But Alexa says, “It is definitely worth it. You want your research to mean something more than just publishing papers. If you know you’re finding ways to benefit communities, that’s very rewarding.”

For the second project, Alexa is studying how land-use change is impacting soil microbial function and soil carbon cycling for project 3.1. She is taking soil from each land-use type and inducing drought to see how the microbes respond. The results will show how land-use change impacts microbes’ ability to cope with climate change. This project is focused on productive landscapes such as pasture in Banks Peninsula, Canterbury.

Alexa is enjoying meeting the different communities, working in beautiful parts of New Zealand, and interacting with other Early Career Researchers in Bioprotection Aotearoa. She says, “Bioprotection Aotearoa is really good because of their focus on early career scientists. There are lots of us and we have regular meetings and chances to get together and talk about our research. A lot of time is invested in us.”

Positioning rangatahi to create impact for tomorrow’s future

Monday, October 3rd, 2022

Play Video | Outreach: Identifying kauri using paper, molecules, and computers

Te manu e kai ana i te miro, nōna te ngahere;

te manu e kai ana i te mātauranga nōna te ao. 

Bioprotection Aotearoa is committed to establishing opportunities that further promote science education and experiences for communities and their learners.

With aligned aspirations, Tiakina Kauri approached Bioprotection Aotearoa to help design and deliver an outreach programme to a group of visiting students from Ngāpuhi.

Lauren Waller, a Science Lead for Tiakina Kauri, has been working with communities in Northland, to protect kauri from the Phytophthora agathidicida (PA), which causes disease in kauri.

As a treaty partner, communication and co-design are key elements at every step of the relationship.  So when Tania Pene, from Te Rūnanga-Ā-Iwi O Ngāpuhi asked Lauren how to get the community involved with the scientific research that is taking place, Lauren saw an opportunity to get rangatahi involved.

Lauren picked up the phone and gave Professor Amanda Black a call, the director of Bioprotection Aotearoa.  Together they assembled a team to begin planning an outreach programme hosted at Lincoln University.

The programme centred around the theme “Identifying kauri using paper, molecules, and computers”.  It’s purpose was to take students through a journey that introduces scientific tools across various scales, that are used in the kauri protection space.

“Working with students is a good way to start, because they are the future,” says Lauren. “They can come down to Lincoln, be a part of this work, understand the context, and why we are doing it.”

Students were blown away by the university environment.  For many, this was their first time in the South Island, and the first time on a plane.  The experience sparked rich conversations around their own learning aspirations after they completed highschool.

Watch the video >

Māori kiwifruit growers determining their own pathway of success.

Monday, October 3rd, 2022

Joyann Te Moana, who upskilled and is now an Assistant Manager for Te Kaha 67

Te Kaha is a quiet coastal town located in the Eastern Bay of Plenty and is one of three focus regions of scientific research for Bioprotection Aotearoa. Te Kaha 15b Ahuwhenua Trust is an 11.5-hectare Māori freehold land block that sits within the rohe (boundary) of Te Whānau-ā-Apanui.

Māori agribusiness, Te Kaha Group, a collective of six ahuwhenua trusts, working together to oversee the management of the six blocks by the contracted pack-houses, where they predominantly farm the gold variety of kiwifruit.

It has been 20 years since the collective planted its first kiwifruit seedling, and in that time, the community has been adopting innovative management practices that benefit its whenua. It has also set up its own vertically integrated commercial enterprises to service operational needs as it manages its productive landscapes.

“We have our own spraying company, we do our own mowing and mulching, and have our own pruners. We are going to buy a couple of new capital items to enhance things even further,” says the Chairman of Te Kaha 15B. Ahuwhenua Trust, Norm Carter (Ngāti Awa, Te Arawa, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui). “We are trying to make sure the work stays within the coast, if we can.”

With this strong entrepreneurial spirit, not only has Te Kaha 15B helped to create jobs and generated economic well-being for its community, but it also offers educational pathways by sponsoring members of their community to gain tertiary qualifications in horticulture.

“Some whanau used to be just pickers and pruners on a block, earning minimum wage, and now they are taking $80- 120k into their family homes as supervisors,” boasts Norm. “They are making a difference to their own families. Plus the money is coming back into our own community.”

Upskilling their workers has also influenced the way in which workers perceive themselves. “You can see it in their faces, you can see it in their āhua,” Norm says, “just the way they are around other workers and how they supervise them, it filters out into the community.”

In addition to growing kiwifruit, the Te Kaha rohe also grow maize, but they are finding that growing maize brings its own set of challenges. “We are trying to get rid of maize, because it is terrible on the environment. It attracts vermin and rats and is hard on the soil. Plus, the things that live in there often go out into the kiwifruit blocks,” Norm says.

Te Kaha Group, of which Te Kaha 15B is one contributing block, are looking to diversify its crop production, and it has recently erected a state-of-the-art nursery to support this vision. Due to the location of Te Kaha it has a unique micro-climate, which offers an advantage over other regions.

“Our bubble is a bit different from everywhere else. We can grow stuff, usually three weeks before anybody else. That is our biggest point of difference,” says Norm.  They have also set up a Limited Liability Partnership, and members can choose to invest in any new developments, or not.

“A new exciting development is the planting of a new 15ha block in the green variety, in which 3 blocks, Te Kaha 15B, Te Kaha 2B and Te Kaha 67, have set up a joint venture with Seeka to establish a new orchard on the Coast.”

The philosophy of Te Kaha 15B has always been to give something back to the soil, plants, and people within their rohe.  This is why they value the relationship with Bioprotection Aotearoa.

“We are trying to get the best for the block from the people we are partnering with. If there is something there that needs fixing or addressing, we want to know what it is so we can do something about it,” says Norm.

Director of Bioprotection Aotearoa, Professor Amanda Black (Tuhoe, Whakatōhea, Te Whānau ā Apanui), says Te Kaha is a scientifically valuable site due to the variety of land use across the landscape. There are so many opportunities for learning about resilient landscapes due to the diversification and fragmentation of the land.

“This community is really enthusiastic to be partnering with Bioprotection Aotearoa, as they are currently diversifying their productive land blocks. This makes it the perfect time to address some of the needs for these Māori growers.”

Bioprotection Aotearoa has four research streams, with many projects within these four streams using Te Kaha as the field site for their research. The purpose is to understand the risk of pathogens being transferred around the landscape, and then identify any mechanisms that confer resistance and resilience against potential pathogen sources in the landscape.

Strategic Advisory Board member James Ataria (Rongomaiwahine, Ngāti Kahungunu, Raukawa) says the strength of Bioprotection Aotearoa is the “collection of scientists from diverse backgrounds who have a common focus on bioprotection and a passion for connecting their science with people and their community’s aspirations.”

James says the collaborative effort between multiple disciplines within Bioprotection Aotearoa not only provides more holistic research outcomes but also brings real value to the collaboration with communities.

Amanda says putting community well-being at the forefront of the research underpins the collective focus on ecosystem restoration in Te Kaha, “so when we go out to field sites with the growers, nursery managers, and iwi, everyone is included in discussions and planning.

“We truly are here to help the communities that we are partnering with and support our early career researchers to think about where and how their research might lead to impacts,” Amanda says.

National Policy Statement for Highly Productive Land (NPS-HPL)

Wednesday, September 28th, 2022

The new National Policy Statement for Highly Productive Land (NPS-HPL), was released by the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) in September 2022.  The intent of this policy is to ensure the availability of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most favourable soils for food and fibre production, now and for the future.

The policy is to provide direction to improve the way highly production land is managed under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA).

Director, Amanda Black released the following statement in response to the release of this policy.

“The protection of highly productive land has been a concern for food producers and scientists for more than two decades. The release of a NPS on highly productive land, at least, is an acknowledgement of the national importance that this issue has, and the impact that continued loss has on our own food security, the wider Pacific food security and of course income from export.

My concern is that it will take at least 3.5 years to really implement and relies heavily on coordination between authorities. While it comes into effect on the 17th October 2022, any land already marked for subdivision will still go ahead. There are also a number of exceptions to protecting highly productive land that begs the questions – will the NPS be able to adequately protect our future food supply, and is  this it too little too late?”

Today FM approached Amanda for further comment.

Listen to the full interview with Tova O’Brian.  Their korero features from 57.50 mins into the Full Show: 19/9/2022  >

Also published on Today FM, is an article that features a comment from Amanda.  Read article here >