Nick Waipara

Senior Scientist, Mt Albert

I was on staff here more than decade ago but it doesn’t feel like I’ve been away that long as I’ve continued to collaborate with several people here throughout my time with other organisations.

I did my PhD on forage and pastoral plant pathology at Ruakura Research Centre before joining HortResearch to work on berryfruit diseases, biological control of invasive weeds and plant pathogens, and the infamous toxic black mould Stachybotrys chartarum that featured in Auckland’s leaky buildings crisis. I joined Manaaki Whenua where I had the privilege of working with the late Ross Beever on plant diseases affecting native taonga plants, leading to my current work on Phytophthora agathidicida, or kauri dieback disease. I’ve been working closely with Ian Horner on this for many years now.

I moved to Auckland Regional Council, which needed its own plant pathologist to provide scientific advice on kauri dieback and implement its management programme in regional kauri parklands, including the Waitākere Ranges. A recent part of my work was to ensure biosecurity measures and rules to contain kauri dieback were included in the Auckland Unitary Plan, despite strong objections from some quarters.

I’m delighted to join Plant & Food Research’s Bioprotection portfolio because as phytophthora, myrtle rust, Psa and Queensland fruit fly have shown us that our unique environment, culture and economy are vulnerable to a range of pest incursions. Between 2003 and 2014, sea container traffic went up 37% and air passengers 47% bringing us into contact with many potential new biological pests, so I’m right behind MPI’s biosecurity 2025 ambition to make New Zealand a biosecurity team of 4.7 million people.

I’m also pleased to be part of a more collaborative multidisciplinary approach that is bringing a breadth of scientists, our diverse communities and knowledge holders together. I’m a part of the science leadership group of the biological heritage science challenge, one of 11 national science challenges, and the most popular after a public submission process. Our challenge aims to enhance and restore New Zealand’s land and freshwater ecosystems by deepening our appreciation of native species by delivering a step change in research innovation, world-leading technologies and community and sector action.

I’m a member of the the Māori biosecurity network Te Tira Whakamātaki, a network of Māori scientists, policy makers, politicians, kaitiaki, iwi leaders and whānau who ensure Māori have a voice and participation in New Zealand’s biosecurity system, and provide technical biosecurity support and advocacy to whānau, hapū and iwi.

My passion is to incorporate local knowledge and local people to help co-design solutions, as we are doing in the ‘Patua riha rāwaho project’ which is developing Māori solutions to the myrtle rust infection of native taonga plants.

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