April 28, 2019 1:16 pm
In February we called for expressions of interest in new funding to help deliver large landscape predator eradication projects and to fast track innovation.
We’ve been overwhelmed by the response.
It’s meant I’ve been out on the road for the last few weeks catching up with proposals from Northland, the Bay of Plenty, East Cape/ Tairawhiti, Hawke’s Bay, Manawatu-Whanganui and the West Coast.
These are New Zealand’s surge regions, where the government – through its Provincial Growth Fund – is keen to stimulate sustainable jobs and business opportunities.
It’s going to be a tough job paring down nearly 20 applications to just several that can deliver the biodiversity and social outcomes at the scale and with the impact we are looking for.
The proposed projects will be assessed against 14 different criteria and we’ll use an evaluation panel, a mix of our directors, staff and invited experts, to score each project.
Last time we went through the process, 45 projects representing six percent of the country’s land area put their hand up and said pick me. Over 100 collaborators, 40 fund providers and operational work totalling $358m were identified.
It’s exciting and humbling knowing that this juggernaut of enthusiasm and support is out there, waiting to be channelled into coordinated, well resourced and eradication-focussed effort.
Our challenge is to ensure project management arrangements and disciplines are in place and to facilitate access to knowledge and equipment that is up to the job.
That is why we have invested a third of the $19.5m grant received from the Provincial Growth Fund into accelerating what we’ve called Products to Projects.
We’re looking to remove the barriers currently facing researchers, developers, designers, manufacturers and suppliers so they can get their best ideas out into the field, at the service of projects, within three years.
More than 60 proposals have been received and we’re looking to have contracts in place with short-listed candidates by the end of June.
A recent paper in the Journal of Ornithology suggests that “current techniques will probably be inadequate to effect nationwide eradications, and new tools (possibly based on genetic technologies) will probably be required.”
We are making sure we stay well connected with international developments in the gene technology field. Our Science Strategy Manager Prof Dan Tompkins Manager sits on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Task Force on Synthetic Biology and Biodiversity Conservation.
Dan recently appeared on Breakfast TV to explain progress, the timeframes required for a national conversation and regulatory processes should a technology like gene drives prove both viable and desirable.
Meanwhile, we are focussed on the job of building a portfolio of successful projects, a suite of proven enabling technologies and a funding pipeline to keep them growing.
Driving around rural New Zealand, it is easy to see the potential for wildlife sanctuaries, tourism enterprises, kaitiaki and manaakitanga providers, and technology and manufacturing businesses.
Let’s make plans for a Predator Free 2050 road trip to a town near you.