Website news AsureQuality Feb

Celebrating a legend in Aotearoa’s biosecurity sector – Peter Wilkins

in Biosecurity

Peter Wilkins of AsureQuality has been announced as the recipient of the 2021 Minister’s Biosecurity Award in recognition for the significant contribution he has made to Aotearoa’s biosecurity.

Winners of the 2021 Biosecurity Awards were announced today by the Minister for Biosecurity, Hon Damien O’Connor. The Biosecurity Awards Gala Dinner was originally planned for November 2021, postponed till February 2022, and now cancelled due to COVID-19.  Each one of the Award winners have made an outstanding contribution to New Zealand’s biosecurity.(external link)

Being acknowledged as the winner of this prestigious Award is a great honour. Peter Wilkins is a very worthy recipient, a highly respected expert and leader who is dedicated to delivering first-class biosecurity work in New Zealand – we celebrate him today.

Peter Wilkins joined the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries way back in 1974, which after a few name and structural changes, eventually become AsureQuality in 2007. This remarkable man’s career spans over 47 years working in the biosecurity arena, with contributions to many of New Zealand’s most successful eradications; from termites to painted apple moth, numerous fruit fly incursions, and more. His dedication and commitment to this important work has delivered outstanding results, achieving successful eradication in many instances.

One of his most significant achievements has been his work in New Zealand’s fruit fly responses on behalf of MPI. If left to establish, exotic fruit flies have the potential to cause significant damage to Aotearoa’s horticulture industry and home gardens alike. Peter has been involved in some thirteen responses, all of which have been successful. His knowledge and expertise proved invaluable during our fruit fly response in 2012, the first detection in 17 years, plus the five fruit fly responses since then. In each of these responses, Peter was heavily involved with the management and delivery of field operations, development of new techniques, training of field teams, operational standards, and maintenance of the equipment and supplies. His technical knowledge, experience, problem-solving, and people skills have made a huge contribution to the success of these and many other biosecurity responses.

His commitment to achieving results is demonstrated by his innovative approach to every response he undertakes. Peter developed and implemented the mobile laboratory concept for fruit fly responses. These mobile labs can be moved to the incursion site within hours of a response starting and have been used in several fruit fly responses to date with great effect. A real benefit of these mobile laboratories is that they minimise the risk of moving fruit from within the danger zone, as the laboratory can be located within or close to the zone. The proximity of the labs has also facilitated easier collaboration between the cross-functional teams working on the response to achieve the best outcomes.

While there is little that Peter doesn’t know about fruit fly eradication programmes, his expertise and experience are much broader. He has played an important role in at least 83 moderate-to-major responses in New Zealand, plus countless smaller ones.

These biosecurity responses include:

  • Elimination of painted apple moth from Auckland
  • Seven eradication programmes for the Australian Subterranean termite
  • Eleven eradications of drywood termites from imported vessels or superyachts
  • Sixteen properties treated for potato wart
  • Eradication of Red Imported Fire Ants from Whirinaki
  • Eradication of pea weevil from the Wairarapa – a world first
  • Elimination of Salvinia from the Papamoa wetlands using a non-chemical technique
  • Plus, Varroa mites, fall webworm moths, Didymo, PSA in Kiwifruit, myrtle rust and many more.

Peter is passionate about sharing his knowledge and collaborating with partners to deliver results for the greater good of Aotearoa. In a coastal response in Northland, Peter worked closely with Ngati Kuri, Te Aupouri, Ngapuhi, and Ngati Kahu to engage their people in the response activity and empower Iwi to take ownership. This led to the Iwi taking on the field operations as part of their kaitiakitanga. Similarly, Nga Potiki and Ngati Kaahu were actively engaged in eliminating an infestation of Salvinia from a wetland in Papamoa. Peter’s ability to work closely with Iwi and the Regional Council meant that no harm came to any native species, whilst the invasive plant was completely removed using novel chemical-free techniques.

While making a truly valuable contribution to biosecurity in New Zealand, Peter has also spent considerable time sharing his expertise internationally, including spending several months in Japan and the Republic of Nauru assisting with fruit fly eradications, as well as the development and implementation of training on exotic disease and pest management for several Pacific Island nations.

There are so many stories to share about this amazing man who is highly regarded by his colleagues, customers, and peers alike, with this quote from a customer illustrating this well; “Peter’s ability to remain calm under pressure, his solution-focus, practical thinking and ability to work with a wide range of people, position him as an extremely valuable asset within the New Zealand biosecurity landscape”.

AsureQuality’s people share a deep responsibility to do the right thing for food and the environments it comes from. They are passionate about what they do, collaborating with others, sharing knowledge, resources, and skills so that everyone benefits – not just in the immediate future but for generations to come. Peter Wilkins is the epitome of these values. He lives and breathes biosecurity, actively sharing his knowledge to help protect Aotearoa from the impact of pests and diseases.