Summer outdoor adventures risk disease spread, expert warns

Side view shot of a sports woman running uphill on rough terrain in a forest.
Photo credit: Getty


COVID-19 has made people more aware of the need for biosecurity - a plus this summer with New Zealanders expected to venture into the outdoors in greater numbers than ever before.

Tame Malcolm, an environmental management expert based at Te Tira Whakamātaki - Māori Biosecurity, told Morning Report the pandemic had made people more conscious of how important biosecurity measures were to stop the spread of disease.

He hoped they would remember this over summer as while heading to the whenua, raising risk of diseases and pests being spread between regions.

Malcolm advised walkers and trampers to spray their boots to avoid taking foreign biological materials into new places.

He said that included people moving between forests, where it was vital to ensure diseases such as kauri dieback and myrtle rust would not be transferred to new areas.

Boaties should scrub the bottom of their vessels to avoid transferring pests from one harbour to another, he said. It would also be useful to report any pests to local councils.

Malcolm was pleased to have seen more uptake in Mātauranga (the body of knowledge originating from Māori ancestors) being used to address environmental issues.

"That's a no-brainer really. Some of the issues we're facing - the best solutions are often the simplest ones and some of the best solutions we're seeing come from Mātauranga frameworks."

Government agencies were slowly moving in this direction, he said.

"It also acts as a way of engaging so we're seeing a lot more communities being engaged by government agencies because their Mātauranga is being used to address problems they're seeing. It's place-based and local people coming up with solutions for issues they're seeing."