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The new SMM Biosecurity Plan and the expert support of STAP By Dan Howie

11 May 2021

As many Maunga Matters readers will know, much of the work conducted at SMM is guided by a biosecurity plan. The purpose of this plan is to outline the processes used to safeguard translocated indigenous species and to protect the sanctuary against introduced invasive organisms. In 2020 SMM engaged John Simmons and Peter Russel of Better Biosecurity Solutions Ltd. to conduct a review of its first biosecurity plan, which was operative over the 2015-2020 period, and to produce a new biosecurity plan for the 2021- 2026 period.

The new biosecurity plan titled the “Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari Biosecurity Risk and Pathway Management Plan” was completed and accepted by the board in January 2021. 25 key recommendations were made in the new biosecurity plan and of these recommendations 8 were selected by the team as being the most urgent issues to address. These recommendations are:

  • Install robust biosecurity measures such as boot wash and bag check stations at public entrances to the sanctuaries with appropriate signage.
  • Implement specific pest prevention standards for nursery and depot activities, such as boot wash stations, equipment cleaning procedures and pest trapping programs.
  • Reinstate annual mice surveys across Maungatautari.
  • Conduct a review of toxin use on the maunga (e.g. how Diphacinone is used).
  • Ensure that pest surveillance and monitoring systems are being applied in the appropriate manner.
  • Continue to target effort to natural pest invasion sources.
  • Continue surveillance and maintenance of the pest proof fence.

With these recommendations in mind SMM has turned to the scientific technical advisory panel (STAP, a wonderful group of experts representing Mana Whenua, Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, the National Institute of Water and Air, the Department of Conservation, Waikato Regional Council, Waipa District Council, the University of Waikato, the University of Auckland, Hamilton Zoo, and Ecoquest.  The SMM team meets with STAP on a quarterly basis to report on recent goings on at the maunga and to receive advice on the current challenges faced.  This year STAP has been asked to review 2 of the recommendations, coming out of the new biosecurity plan, at each of the quarterly meetings and provide their input into the best ways for SMM to implement these recommendations.

The first meeting of STAP occurred in March and the information, resources, and contacts that came from these discussions were great! I am now in the process of pricing and sourcing boot wash stations, bag check stations and the appropriate signage to be installed at public entrances to the maunga. I am also looking into pest prevention standards around our depots and nursery to reduce the biosecurity threat posed by our team’s activities.

The next STAP meeting is to be held in June and we look forward to receiving advice on the recommendations regarding mice monitoring and toxin use on the maunga. Although these recommendations raise some big questions and challenges to our team, I am confident that with the support of STAP we can all tackle them together.