‘Catfish Killas’ take top honours in biosecurity awards

Catfish Killas volunteers William Anaru, Alex Malcom and Steven Henry with MPI DDG of Biosecurity NZ Penny Nelson.

An initiative to get rid of an unwanted pest from Lake Rotoiti has taken out the supreme award in the 2019 New Zealand Biosecurity Awards.

The awards celebrate people across New Zealand who are contributing to biosecurity and were held in Auckland on Monday night.

Te Arawa Lakes Trust, of Rotorua, took out the top honour with the trust’s initiative dubbed ‘Catfish Killas’ winning the New Zealand Biosecurity Supreme Award and also receiving the New Zealand Biosecurity Department of Conservation Community Pihinga Award.

Catfish Killas is a collaboration led by Te Arawa Lakes Trust and Bay of Plenty Regional Council. 

Judging panel chair Dr John Hellstrom said the judges were unanimous in choosing Te Arawa Catfish Killas as the supreme award winner. 

“Te Arawa Catfish Killas was established in November 2018 in response to an incursion of catfish in Lake Rotoiti. They use fyke nets to rid the ancestral lakes of Te Arawa of catfish, a very unwanted pest – and have now adopted a long term management plan,” he said.

“Catfish prey on small native fish, eat fish eggs, compete with kōura (freshwater native crayfish) and stir up sediment. The Catfish Killers manage the catfish population with the help of 48 fyke nets, catching up to 1000 catfish a week.”

Participating volunteers include lakeside residents, holidaymakers, tourists and students from 16 local schools, Toi Ohomai and one early childhood centre – putting volunteer participation at more than 450 people.

“The achievements of this trust in collaborating and working with community, iwi and council to take everyone with them on this fantastic outreach programme makes them the worthy recipient of the supreme award,” Dr Hellstrom said.  

This year’s awards, now in their third year, attracted a record number of 70 high-calibre entries. 

Deputy director-general Biosecurity New Zealand Penny Nelson said the awards celebrate the incredible individuals and teams who are working hard to help ensure Aotearoa is safe from pests and disease. 

“The winners include leaders, researchers, scientists, communities and innovators who have gone above and beyond in their work to protect our environment, our taonga, our economy and our way of life.

“Their magnificent mahi is fundamental in keeping our biosecurity system strong, and every day they are putting in the hard yards to ensure New Zealand continues to have a world-leading biosecurity system,” she said.

2019 New Zealand Biosecurity Awards Winners:

Biosecurity New Zealand Supreme Award and the New Zealand Biosecurity Department of Conservation Community Pihinga Award (for new initiatives/projects) 

Winner: Te Arawa Lakes Trust: Te Arawa Catfish Killas. 

Minister’s Biosecurity Award 

Winner: David Cade, commonly known as ‘Didymo Dave’, for being a passionate and long-standing champion and volunteer for freshwater biosecurity, pest control and conservation; and a tireless promoter of the Check, Clean, Dry campaign to stop the transfer of freshwater pests and prevent the introduction of new ones.

New Zealand Biosecurity Department of Conservation Community Kahiwi Award (for established initiatives/projects)

Winner: Te Roroa Commercial Development Company for the Kauri Dieback Response Plan.

New Zealand Biosecurity GIA Industry Award 

Winner: Livestock Improvement Corporation for helping to protect the national herd from Mycoplasma bovis.

New Zealand Biosecurity AsureQuality Emerging Leader Award 

Winner – Kane McElrea of Northland Regional Council for forging sustainable community and iwi-led biosecurity programmes and help turn the tide on dwindling kiwi populations across Northland.

Te Puni Kōkiri Māori Award 

Winner: Ngāti Hauā Mahi Trust: Tiaki Manaakitia te Tangata, Tiaki Manaakitia te Taiao for growing native plants and securing sustainable long-term funding.

New Zealand Biosecurity Eagle Technology Local and Central Government Award 

Winner: Auckland Council Biosecurity Island Team for protecting the natural and ecological values of the islands in the Hauraki Gulf

New Zealand Biosecurity Mondiale Innovation Award

Winner:  Automotive Technologies Limited for designing and building its own specialised heat treatment facilities designed specifically for the effective heat treatment of vehicles.

New Zealand Biosecurity Bio-Protection Research Centre Science Award 

Winner: Myrtle Rust Research Consortium for its integrated and rapid research response to myrtle rust.

Read the full Newshub article here.