Biosecurity services Surveillance 1

AsureQuality’s biosecurity team partners with councils for the greater good

in Biosecurity
Author: AsureQuality Biosecurity Team

AsureQuality is one of New Zealand’s most experienced organisations in biosecurity, offering services covering the depth and breadth of biosecurity surveillance and response. Our specialised experience and expertise is now available directly to those organisations who can benefit from it the most – New Zealand local, regional and district councils.

“We know that much of the responsibility for Aotearoa’s biosecurity sits with councils, and we want to be able to help at that coalface. This is a relatively recent move for us, and the feedback we’ve received to date indicates that some councils are not aware that AsureQuality can now work directly with them,” says Mike Fenton, Group Service Manager, Speciality Services, AsureQuality Biosecurity.

“We want to encourage councils to get in touch with us directly - to find out more about the unparalleled depth and breadth of biosecurity capabilities that we offer, which can be used to complement their internal teams,” he says.

Examples of recent council projects include the Bat Wing Passionflower Programme with Northland Regional Council since April 2021, which AsureQuality was awarded after providing assistance with NRC’s suspected Koi Carp response in February. AsureQuality has also worked with Tasman District Council and Greater Wellington Regional Council as well as many other customers within primary industries and private sectors.

“We know you might be facing a variety of species, Moth Plant, for example, if you’re in Auckland, whereas Old Man’s Beard is a key issue outside of the northern North Island, and then there’s Woolly Nightshade –which is a problem throughout the North Island. We want councils to know that it doesn’t matter what they’re dealing with; we are a highly trained and capable team who have faced it before and can be the people to help you get the job done right,” says Mike. 

There are 39 AsureQuality offices spread from Northland to Invercargill in which the biosecurity team base themselves. The 60-strong biosecurity team increases to over 100 during the peak summer period and has over 200 years of combined biosecurity experience. These factors mean that the team can scale up quickly and respond immediately to urgent biosecurity situations, no matter how complicated. AsureQuality’s geographical spread also means that it is price-competitive, with no travel required to get AsureQuality boots on the ground.

“We are a highly professional, experienced and specialist biosecurity team. We have extremely well-qualified people on our team with PhDs in Entomology, Marine Biology, and Veterinary Science (amongst others), but still have no shortage of practical people to get the job done with a range of qualifications such as Registered Chemical Applicators, Chainsaw Operators, while others have extensive international experience in biosecurity and have brought that knowledge back with them. This is then backed up by the wealth of experience gained from our long-standing relationship working closely with MPI, the lead agency for New Zealand’s biosecurity, and from spearheading our country’s most significant biosecurity responses to date,” says Mike.

Such responses include AsureQuality being the lead contractor in New Zealand’s Mycoplasma Bovis (M. bovis) eradication programme from 2018 - the single biggest programme of its kind ever conducted in New Zealand. This world-leading response is now seen and implemented by other countries as the best-practice model. AsureQuality has been played a key role in all of New Zealand’s Fruit Fly responses, in particular the 2015 response in which a small population was found and successfully eradicated, as well as the Red-Imported Fire ant (RIFA) incursion - considered to be in the world’s top 10 invasive species. 

The RIFA response evolved into the National Invasive Ant Surveillance programme (NIAS) which is a collaboration between AsureQuality, MPI and Flybusters AntiAnts to detect and prevent incursions of exotic ants into New Zealand. This programme is very successful and as a result AsureQuality, MPI and Flybusters AntiAnts were finalists in the 2021 Biosecurity Awards in recognition of their work. Globally, the programme has become renowned as the gold standard of biosecurity surveillance programmes for ants.

Looking at the individuals who make up the AsureQuality biosecurity team itself, and of particular relevance to councils, is the fact that many of their team hold an ‘Authorised Persons’ status under the Biosecurity Act 1993. This status means they have been appointed under the Act to carry out surveillance and inspections for notifiable and unwanted organisms. The AsureQuality biosecurity team are highly professional, and councils can have the confidence to delegate the important task of entering private properties and dealing with the public directly to carry out critical surveillance and control.

“We understand that for Councils, it’s really important to have full confidence in the people that are authorised to step onto private property, and the broader public needs to have confidence too. We are professionals and, in addition to the standard activity of carrying out plant and trap inspections, we can also answer any questions that the public may have. This is incredibly important to us personally – protecting Aotearoa’s biosecurity is a team effort. Councils want individuals alerting them of what they see on their properties and around their regions, and that is much more likely to happen if they feel confident about the efforts that they see on the ground,” says Mike.

For a long time, AsureQuality has been the undisputed market leader in GIS and Collector App, and while the use of this technology has now become more common, AsureQuality’s wealth of experience with both can be used to the advantage of councils. 

“We routinely use GIS, as opposed to many other organisations which may use this only sporadically, and we are well-versed in the entire ArcGIS software range. We can quickly and easily customise dashboards to meet individual needs. We can also take data that has already been collected, or new data we enter on a particular project, and translate it into actionable insights that we can present back to you.”

“We can quickly and seamlessly integrate with a Council’s existing team to deliver results on time and within budget. Our team can hit the ground running”, says Mike.

A further advantage of partnering with the AsureQuality biosecurity team is the ability to access the full capabilities, experience, and history in biosecurity of the broader AsureQuality company. Owned by the New Zealand Government, the AsureQuality name inspires confidence and credibility. With over 1700 dedicated people, deeply connected to its partners across the food and primary production sectors, AsureQuality offers the broadest range of food assurance services in New Zealand.

“For councils that means that not only can we meet their biosecurity surveillance and response needs, but we are a one-stop-shop. We offer one point of consistent contact for any additional help required, whether that is on the ground labour support, technical experts, plant and pest identification, disease diagnosis, verification services or laboratory testing. We are here to partner and support them with all of their biosecurity requirements,” he says. 

With summer a particularly busy time for councils with pest plants in abundance, AsureQuality encourages people to get in touch and talk about how the biosecurity team can make a difference.

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