Gaming – Global first indigenous game launching 22 July 2021

Source: KiComms

Tuesday 20th July 2021: A world first online gaming platform, Katuku Island, that supports indigenous education, will be launched this week and will be free to download on Apple and Google Play.

The game is the upshot of a Māori academic’s master’s degree and doctoral research to close the gap for indigenous peoples and to learn how culture can create resilience.

Katuku Island is an original storyline adapted to a player survival game with an indigenous overlay. Players must make their way to the only uncontaminated place in the world, Katuku Island. Along the way players must create their player avatars designed to look like Māori warriors with tribal tattoos, design Māori weapons, build tribes and escape the crumbling cities. Throughout the game, the player must undertake game challenges, like literacy and decision making. It uses gaming, fun and cultural elements to push the learner to excel in problem solving.  

Dr Phyllis Callaghan and late husband Matua Craig Callaghan both worked in the education sector and have committed their lives to Māori education. Initially this drove them to write a textbook called 16-year-old Māori Boy, which has supported not only Māori youth at school, but also Māori in the justice system, on their educational journey.

Dr Callaghan says that the idea has been constantly evolving and morphed into developing a 3D Indigenous game that supports educational development in literacy, in an environment that signifies Māori and Indigenous cultural codes in all aspects of the game.

“It has allowed an about-face of power and ascertained that students with minimal education can get a second chance at learning. They are able to master cultural talents, which come naturally to them, such as toi (art) or whakairo (carving). These codes had often lain dormant throughout their mainstream education and were overshadowed by negative codes they’d endured at school, such as racism.

“Māori do not have positive educational statistics. Much of the research tells us that Māori do not fare well in the subject of English, and the gap in the New Zealand schooling systems between Māori students and non-Māori students is widening. Poverty plays a huge part to these statistics. But gains are being made and the environment changing”. Dr Callaghan says

Katuku Island meets global tech stretch disciplines (the research or the innovation behind the tool). Elements of tech stretch involve collaboration, learner agency, goal setting and real-time assessment.  When the cultural gaming elements and the tech stretch components collide, we expect maximum learning outcomes, creating the impetus, self-efficacy and agency for the learner to undertake gaming and educational challenges confidently and successfully, thus increasing learner effectiveness and learner resilience to become the master of their domain.  

“The science and data collection became both quantitative and qualitative. Too many times we allow quantitative to be the measurement, but you can’t accurately measure trauma within a mathematical equation, Māori have known that mai rā anō (from long ago). The learning journey from Katuku Island could help to unpack past trauma or bad educational experiences and move players forward, creating better social and economic outcomes for themselves”.

All artists and graphic designers who have worked on the design of the characters and visuals for Katuku Island, hail from award winning whakairo programme run out of Tūranga Tane (Gisborne Boys High School) and developed by Dr Callaghan’s late husband, Craig Callaghan.

Katuku Island is aimed at indigenous peoples across the globe, from six-year-olds onwards, with the player able to access instant feedback throughout the game. The launch on 22 July will be livestreamed on the Katuku Island Facebook page.

Facebook page:


Support and Natural Disasters – OSPRI supporting flood affected farmers

Source: OSPRI New Zealand

Animal disease management agency OSPRI acknowledges the difficult situation farmers in the Buller and Marlborough districts are facing following the extreme flooding last weekend. 
During this challenging time, OSPRI will be extending timeframes for reporting livestock movements in NAIT for people in charge of animals (PICAs) in the affected areas. 
These extensions continue until the local state of emergency is lifted for each district.
“It is devastating for the farmers and their communities at this time with the animals that have been lost to the flooding. OSPRI wants to support those farmers and has extended the timeline for meeting their NAIT obligations,” says OSPRI Head of Traceability Kevin Forward.
“We understand those impacted people will have a lot to deal with at present whether it be land or property and the recovery will be long-term. OSPRI wants to help lessen the load by giving people a bit of breathing room during this distressing and uncertain period,” says Mr Forward.
As a result of the extended times the following conditions apply:
– Register as a PICA within 7 days after the local state of emergency ends.
– Declare all animal movements within 7 days after the local state of emergency ends.
– Animals that arrive untagged must be tagged and registered in NAIT within 7 days after the local state of emergency ends.
– Declare animal deaths and losses within 21 days after the local state of emergency ends.
Given the importance of animal traceability and biosecurity, OSPRI is advising farmers to still tag and register their animals before moving.
-If you need help with domestic or lifestyle animals, please contact Renwick (Blenheim) SPCA – 03 572 9156 & Westport SPCA 03-789 7520.
-For commercial farm assistance call MPI 0800 00 83 33.
-If you need emergency feed, help moving stock or cleaning up, please call Federated Farmers freephone 0800 376 646, option 2 or the Rural Support Trust on 0800 787 254.
If you require more information about tagging and registering your animals over this period, go to

Human Rights – Ben and Jerry’s does the right thing – will Nanaia Mahuta agree to United Nations call?

Source: Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa

US Ice Cream manufacturer Ben and Jerry’s has announced it will no longer sell icecream in the occupied Palestinian Territories.

This is a welcome development while Israel is continuing to flout international law with their new government approving the building of 31 more illegal Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank alongside the destruction of Palestinian homes and on-going ethnic cleansing of Palestinian families from occupied East Jerusalem to make way for Jewish settlers.

It appears this move may be linked to last week’s request from the UN Special Rapporteur, Michael Lynk, for countries to recognise Israel’s sponsoring of Israeli settlers on Palestinian land in the Occupied West Bank as “a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.”

The Special Rapporteur calls these settlers (680,000 across almost 300 illegal settlements) “the engine of Israel’s 54-year-old occupation, the longest in the modern world”.

This UN report gives the government the opportunity to make public New Zealand’s abhorrence at these ongoing racist policies against Palestinians.

New Zealand has been silent since 2016 when the last National-led government co-sponsored United Nations Security Council resolution 2334 which declared Israel’s illegal settlements to have “no legal validity” and constitute a “flagrant violation of international law”.

The next step – as requested by the United Nations last week, is for New Zealand to declare this Israel settler policy as a “war crime”.

Five years of silence is complicity with Israel’s war crimes. It is not acceptable.

PSNA wrote to the Minister of Foreign Affairs about this yesterday. We are expecting the government to speak out.


John Minto

National Chair

Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa

Performing Arts – The New Zealand Dance Company presents Night Light – an evening of earthy contrast in Auckland, Whangarei and Christchurch this September

Source: The New Zealand Dance Company

An ancient sequence of nature and the space between fiction and reality are brought to life in Night Light – an evening of earthy contrast, to be presented by The New Zealand Dance Company (NZDC) in Auckland, Whangarei and Christchurch this September.  

Tickets are on sale today at for this thrilling double bill of The Fibonacci and Uku – Behind the Canvas by two dynamic New Zealand choreographers. 

Night Light will premiere in Auckland at the ASB Waterfront Theatre on 3 and 4 September, in advance of performances in Whangarei on 8 September and in Christchurch on 16 September. 

NZDC Co-artistic Director and choreographer of The Fibonacci Tor Colombus says “Night Light is a reflective offering in response to this moment in time that we are collectively living through''.

Co-artistic Director James O’Hara says “Night Light invites us to listen, consider, re-gather and also to celebrate how fortunate we are in New Zealand right now”. 

“We are thrilled to share these two dynamically contrasting yet complimentary works in this double bill originally commissioned by NZDC Founding Artistic Director, Shona McCullagh,” says O’Hara.  

The Fibonacci by Colombus explores energy pathways through dance, sound and place in relationship to the mathematical Fibonacci sequence. With meditative movement, the work reveals a tapestry of pattern and form, which provokes a feeling of connection to something deeper than the detail of each individual action.

The world premiere of emerging Māori choreographer Eddie Elliott’s Uku – Behind the Canvas explores the power of vulnerability and the strength within struggle. With inspiration from visual artist Andy Denzler, Eddie draws from the pūrākau (storytelling) held within Te Ao Māori and weaves it with New Zealand Sign Language to reveal the complexity of his own human experience. Anticipation and intensity are at the heart of movement paired with cleansing uku (clay) which symbolises the relationship between Hineahuone and Tāne – where we’ve come from and to where we will return. 

NZDC believes that everyone should have access to the joy that live performance brings, particularly in response to recent world events, so in an effort to break down cost as a barrier all tickets to Night Light are $25*.

From floating through time and space, observing nature’s mysterious golden spirals in Colombus’ The Fibonacci to grounding down with feeling in Elliott’s Uku – Behind the Canvas where confronting storytelling is at its most raw, these two divine performances delivered one after the other offer an evening of earthy contrast not to be missed.

“It starts with a contemplative illumination, but soon becomes a river of intriguing movement.” (Michelle Potter)

“[In The Fibonacci] Every moment is a stunning and disciplined pattern, flaunting the effortless synergy of the dancers and perfectly complemented by Rowan’s Pierce’s epic sound design.” (Regional News Wellington)

“NZDC is abundant with highly creative movement, emotion, flow and strength. Contemporary dance at its finest.” (Theatreview)

Event Details:


Friday 3 September, 7.30pm
Saturday 4 September, 7.30pm
ASB Waterfront Theatre

Wednesday 8 September, 7.30pm
Forum North

Thursday 16 September, 7.30pm
James Hay Theatre

All tickets: $25*
*Booking fees may apply

Website and tickets:  

Banking – ASB appoints world’s largest asset manager BlackRock in major partnership to enhance investment offering

Source: ASB

ASB has entered into a strategic partnership with BlackRock, that will see its investment customers benefit from the global expertise of the largest investment management firm in the world.

Over half-a-million ASB customers have more than NZD$20 billion invested across ASB’s suite of managed funds, including around NZD$13.5 billion in the ASB KiwiSaver Scheme.

ASB Executive General Manager Private Banking, Wealth and Insurance Adam Boyd says, “This expansive partnership insources BlackRock as our chief investment and portfolio management function, encompassing active and index manager research across asset classes, for all ASB wealth offerings.

“Our intent is to build on the solid history of performance across our funds and deliver even better investment outcomes for customers. The BlackRock Multi-Asset team that will manage our investments has a very strong track record1.”

As the delegated investment partner for ASB, BlackRock will manage asset allocation and currency decisions across all funds, including ASB Portfolio Series. This work has previously been managed in-house, with the support of external advisors.

Individual asset classes, for example Australasian equities or international bonds, will continue to be managed by a number of local and international investment firms, overseen by ASB in collaboration with BlackRock.

“We have invested in world-class expertise to manage our asset allocation and currency decisions as we see these as the most significant driver of fund performance,” says Mr Boyd.

Chair and Head of BlackRock Asia Pacific Rachel Lord says the partnership with ASB is unique in the region in that it encompasses the entire investment platform.

“We are excited to bring the full breadth of our global investment expertise as well as our end-to-end investment and technology platform to ASB. We look forward to helping to deliver an enhanced offering to its investment customers,” Ms Lord says.

Mr Boyd says, “BlackRock is a global thought leader in the responsible investment space and its values, which are centred around helping people to experience financial-wellbeing and contributing to a more equitable and resilient world are strongly aligned with ASB’s.

“BlackRock is also very focused on innovation and is a global leader in the investment technology space. This innovative approach to wealth management will help to maximise the value we deliver to our customers.”

The agreement with BlackRock follows a global search process that was kicked off by ASB in late 2019.

The partnership commences from today.

About BlackRock

BlackRock’s purpose is to help more and more people experience financial well-being.

As a fiduciary to investors and a leading provider of financial technology, BlackRock helps millions of people build savings that serve them throughout their lives by making investing easier and more affordable.

[1] BlackRock’s Tactical Growth Fund has performed in the top ten percent of its peers on a 10-year basis. Performance is for the ten years ended 31 January 2020 and assessed against Morningstar’s database of multi-sector growth funds

Interests in the ASB KiwiSaver Scheme and ASB Investment Funds (Schemes) are issued by ASB Group Investments Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of ASB Bank Limited (ASB). ASB provides Scheme administration and distribution services. No person guarantees interests in the Schemes. Interests in the Schemes are not deposits or other liabilities of ASB. They are subject to investment risk, including possible loss of income and principal invested. For more information see the Product Disclosure Statements available from and the register of offers of financial products at (search for ASB).

ASB Portfolio Series is a discretionary investment management service provided by ASB Bank Limited. For more information see the ASB Portfolio Series Service Disclosure Statement available from your ASB Wealth Manager.

Banking – ASB offers relief to customers affected by Westport and Marlborough flooding

Source: ASB

ASB is supporting customers affected by the extreme weather event in Westport and Marlborough, offering tailored packages including suspension of home loan repayments and an emergency overdraft facility of up to $100,000 at a reduced variable interest rate of 2.95% p.a. for business and rural customers.

ASB executive general manager Retail Banking Craig Sims says the bank will work closely with its customers during this stressful time and will fast track any requests for emergency assistance. “We know people are doing it tough after days of severe rain, power outages and families and businesses being forced to evacuate. These challenges will continue long after the flooding subsides, and ASB is here to help.

“While the immediate focus needs to be on safety, we encourage our customers to get in touch with us when they’re ready to talk through their options. We hope our relief measures will ease some of the pressure communities are facing as customers start to face the clean-up and rebuild,” says Mr Sims.

ASB is supporting its personal, farming and business customers on a case-by-case basis with a range of emergency assistance measures, including:

Option to suspend home loan principal repayments for up to three months.
Overdraft of up to $10,000 for ASB home loan customers and up to $2,000 for other ASB personal customers at a reduced variable interest rate of 2.95% p.a.
Access to working capital of up to $100,000 at a reduced variable interest rate of 2.95% p.a. for business and rural customers.
No fees on any new working capital facility required.

Any ASB customer who has been affected should speak to their relationship manager, call 0800 272 287 if they are a business customer managed out of our Small Business centre, or call ASB’s Financial Assistance team on 0800 27 27 35 (option 3) between 8.30am and 5.00pm Monday to Friday. Alternatively, customers can email

More information and full terms, fees and charges can be found on the ASB website. Detail for personal customers is available at Information for business, rural and corporate customers is available at

Animal Welfare – NZALA and SAFE file court proceedings against the Government for their failure to ban rodeo

Source: SAFE For Animals

The New Zealand Animal Law Association (NZALA) and SAFE have filed proceedings against the Minister of Agriculture and the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) for their failure to end rodeo events.
NZALA and SAFE said rodeo activities violate the Animal Welfare Act 1999. This is the second time the two organisations have filed Court proceedings to challenge Codes of Welfare.
SAFE CEO Debra Ashton said rodeo events cause pain and distress to animals.
“Every year they cause torn ligaments, broken bones, bruising and internal damage. These injuries can be so severe that bulls and horses are killed.
“The Government has been too slow to take action on rodeo, so now we’re taking this issue to court.”
NZALA and SAFE filed Judicial Review Proceedings in 2019, challenging the continued use of farrowing crates for mother pigs. In a Judgement released in November 2020, the High Court ruled that the Minister of Agriculture and NAWAC acted illegally when they failed to phase out farrowing crates.
NZALA President Saar Cohen said, “In 2018, NZALA put the regulators on notice about the problematic legal status of rodeo.”
“It is now time to ask the Court for guidance on this legal issue. As lawyers, we are concerned that rodeo activities such as steer wrestling or calf roping are allowed to continue despite being inconsistent with the Act.”
There has been growing criticism of rodeo in public opinion. Two bulls were killed during rodeo events in the 2019/2020 season. A bull was euthanised at the Mid Northern rodeo after an injury during the 2020/2021 season.
SAFE commissioned a Horizon Research opinion poll in June 2020, which found that 51 per cent of respondents would support a ban on the use of animals in rodeo in New Zealand. Twenty-five per cent were opposed to a ban. When respondents were asked if they agreed with the statement that “Rodeo, causes pain and suffering to animals, and it is not worth causing this pain and suffering for the sake of entertainment,” 66 per cent agreed.
SAFE is New Zealand’s leading animal rights organisation.
We're creating a future that ensures the rights of animals are respected. Our core work empowers society to make kinder choices for ourselves, animals and our planet.
NZALA is a coalition of lawyers, law students and law graduates working to improve the welfare and lives of animals through the legal system.
 Footage from Methven and Winchester rodeos, October 2020.
 Social media video with text and music.
– High resolution photos of rodeo cruelty.
– In 2018, NAWAC published a report ‘ Rodeo events – How do they impact the sentient animal?
– The report said NAWAC had “serious concerns” over the “substantial negative impacts” on animals used in steer wrestling and calf roping. They also stated that bucking events, which use horses, bulls and steers, “have a variety of negative impacts” on the animals.
– In 2018, NZALA published a report ‘ The Legal Status of Rodeo in New Zealand,’ which concluded that rodeos are unlawful in New Zealand.
– Before the 2017 election, Labour promised to end the use of calves under 12 months of age, bucking straps (also known as flank straps), electric prods and rope burning at rodeo events.

Pacific Health – Collaboration the Key To Change for Pacific Health

Source: ProCare Health

Collaboration will be the key to change New Zealand’s Pacific health inequities, according to the country’s largest network of healthcare professionals.
ProCare CEO Bindi Norwell has responded to the Health, Quality & Safety Commission’s report Bula Sautu by pledging continued support of cross-sector solutions to the dire health issues that plague our Pacific families throughout the entire life course. She cites the organisation’s Population Health Strategy as being its guiding force, central to every stream of work, and agrees with Bula Sautu’s number one step towards improving Pacific health: “Know your data”.
“You can’t address what you can’t properly see or understand” says Norwell “Which is why we embarked on a comprehensive Health Needs Analysis (HNA) in 2018, which looked at the entire population we serve – around 760,000 across Tamaki Makaurau of which 100,000 are Pacific”. The HNA guided a consultation process with Māori and Pacific community groups that led to the development of a Population Health Strategy which focuses particularly on our Māori and Pacific communities, identifying equity gaps to the health care they were receiving.
ProCare’s Associate Clinical Director Dr Sue Wells, who is leading the Strategy, says Bula Sautu made for harrowing but unsurprising reading. “We know that these inequities exist, and we are working incredibly hard to address the gaps that we see in five target areas: Early start to life – pregnancy and children aged 0-4, Youth Health, Wellbeing, People with Long Term Conditions and Quality of Life for Older People. Our data, gleaned from the HNA and updated continuously in real time, is allowing us to really support practices to understand the health needs of their unique Pacific populations and then to adjust the way care is provided. The data provides an opportunity for us to really tailor care.”
As was highlighted in the Bula Sautu report, less than half of pregnant Pacific women are enrolled with a midwife for crucial screening and health care in their first trimester. Dr Justine Mesui, Associate Clinical Director for Pacific Health, sees this every day working as a GP in West Auckland and knows first-hand, the complications that can arise for Pacific women and their unborn babies. Access to pregnancy healthcare is a huge problem for many of our Pacific pregnant mothers for many reasons. Many do not understand how the health system works when they are pregnant, why they need to engage earlier on, what support services they are entitled to and how they can access them.
“We can do better as healthcare providers and have an obligation to support them better every step of the way” says Dr Mesui.
“We are developing a pregnancy road map which outlines at each step of their pregnancy what health services they can expect to receive and what other services are available. It covers both health and social supports. We have also installed an early pregnancy assessment tool (called Best Start Kōwae) in most of the Procare practices which was developed by the National Health Coalition PHO. We have used this tool, as an in depth physical, psychosocial assessment to address the disparities in healthcare experienced by our high needs population such as Māori and Pacific expectant mothers”.
With the influence of ProCare’s Māori and Pacific Advisory Committee (ProMa and ProPa) the drive to close the Pacific gaps led to an increase in Pacific workforce including nurses Lupe Helu and Judy Ikihele. Their focus includes support for the 170 ProCare General Practice’s with tools and cultural advice to help improve their responsiveness to the needs of our Pacific families.
In terms of tangible, on-the-ground solutions, Norwell says no single entity can claim to have all the answers – working together is the way forward. The Heathy Village Action Zone (HVAZ) programme and Diabetes Self-Management Education (DSME) that ProCare and other health providers offer are great examples. “These services complement the work of the GPs and Nurses in the community, providing Pacific churches and community groups with health education, screening, nutrition training and lifestyle change programmes.
Integrated services are available through partnerships with Pacific providers and services; they are a shining example of how sector partners can work together, addressing exactly the kind of issues that Bula Sautu has laid bare.” says Norwell. “Our HVAZ work streams have been incredibly impactful. It is clear to me why this is so; we are speaking with these families, instead of at them, in an environment that is familiar and special to them, and we are bringing their leaders (such as church reverends) on the journey too. The staff who interact with our communities are all Pacific; they understand the culture and the language” says Masuisui Sam Partch, HVAZ Coordinator.
ProCare Pacific Strategy Advisor Viv Pole says there is good work being done to address Pacific health issues, but it is a drop in the bucket compared to the scale of the problem. Pole would like to have seen more emphasis on Pacific health in the recent Health & Disability System Review, considering Pacific suffer worse health outcomes than most other ethnicities in New Zealand. “We are concerned with the high prevalence of Pacific diabetes and the 30% (25-44 yrs) who have prediabetes, let alone the undiagnosed. It will be good to have dedicated funding to address the burden of the disease and protect the quarter of Pacific that are expected to have diabetes in 20 years”.
In order to bring about widespread change, Norwell hopes that the Reforms will enable more targeted care for Pacific people, based on their need and delivered in their local community – close to home. “We need to work in collaboration and we need to listen to our communities. This is the opportunity of a lifetime for the sector to come together – to embrace what’s working, and to turn our backs on what’s not.”

Awards – Finalists announced for 2021 ExportNZ ASB Wellington Export Awards

Source: Wellington Chamber of Commerce

The finalists for the fourth annual ExportNZ ASB Wellington Export Awards have been announced and they include some of the very best exporters in the Wellington region.
“The past year has been exceedingly challenging for business, especially for our export community,” says Simon Arcus, Chief Executive of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce, which supports and delivers ExportNZ in the wider Wellington region.
“With this in mind, this year it’s even more important than others to take time to celebrate business and acknowledge the critical contribution of export to the economy.
“Even in the face of the ongoing challenges from Covid-19, our exporters continue to do well on the world stage, and it shows through in the quality of this year’s entries.”
The finalists for each category are:
The Southeast Asia Centre of Asia-Pacific Excellence Best Emerging Business Award: Fix & Fogg, Lazulife, Mana Pacific, and Washbar.
The CentrePort Wellington Best Established Business Award: ITL, Whittaker’s, and Woolyarns.
The Toitū Envirocare Excellence in Sustainability Award: GIVE Packaging, and Method Recycling.
The WellingtonNZ Excellence in Innovation Award: Ackama, InternNZ, Sanpro Industries, and Snapper Services.
The winners of each category will contest the supreme ASB Exporter of the Year Award and will be invited to participate in the NZTE New Zealand International Business Awards. The Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington School of Business and Government Judge’s Choice Award will also be presented on the night, recognising special achievement in the eyes of the judges.
The finalists represent exporters from across the wider Wellington and Central region – including the Hutt Valley, Wairarapa, Kapiti Coast, Porirua, Palmerston North, and Wellington City itself.
Applicants for the awards go through a rigorous selection process, which includes site visits, and detailed analysis of the companies’ export performance. The judges for this year’s awards are Chair of Business Central Vaughan Renner, NZTE Wellington Customer Manager Ann Clifford, and ASB International Trade consultant Paul Gestro.
ASB Executive General Manager for Corporate Banking Nigel Annett says: “Kiwi exporters are now the primary source of international income into the country and continue to be critical to the recovery of our local economy. It’s been a big 18 months and we’ve seen some terrific innovation from local companies as they’ve navigated through the pandemic. The ExportNZ ASB Wellington Export awards next month will be a great opportunity to support, encourage and celebrate exporting excellence.”
The last ASB Wellington Exporter of the Year was cancer screening company Volpara Health Technologies, who joined Antipodes and RJ’s Licorice as winners of the top prize in Wellington Export since the commencement of the awards in 2017.
The Gala Dinner and Awards Night celebration will be held on August 19th, at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and tickets can be purchased from the ExportNZ website. Wellington’s own Linda Clark will host the evening with entrepreneur and adventurer, Cam McLeay, as the keynote speaker.

Environment – New weapon in fight against invasive aquatic weeds – NIWA

Source: NIWA

A combination of artificial intelligence and scientific ingenuity looks set to be the next step forward in protecting Aotearoa New Zealand’s lakes and rivers from invasive aquatic weeds.
Management and detection of invasive submerged weeds costs millions of dollars annually, but NIWA researchers have developed a way to detect and identify submerged weeds. This technology will enable agencies to survey far larger areas more efficiently than is currently possible, and potentially lead much faster responses to new incursions.
Invasive submerged weeds can degrade water quality, exacerbate silt and flooding, reduce the number of native animals and plants and play havoc with irrigation water delivery and hydroelectric power schemes
NIWA has developed a portable invasive species detector module that can be strapped to survey boats. The prototype is housed in a small waterproof case with an underwater video camera attached. Inside is a computer containing an artificial intelligence-based detector that has been trained to identify targeted invasive weed species and log their locations in real time.
Principal technician Jeremy Bulleid has implemented a deep learning neural network – an artificial intelligence function – to train a computer model to recognise two of New Zealand’s worst invasive weeds – lagarosiphon and hornwort – and record their GPS locations. These data can then be exported to a mapping programme to enable control or eradication strategies to be implemented.
“The deep learning process enables us to replace the human eyes and brain with a video camera and a computer by running a detection application that has been taught what to look for,” Mr Bulleid says.
Training a detector requires significant computing power and, depending on the complexity of the search environment and ‘target species’, may take days or even weeks. However, once training is completed, the trained detector is efficient and can be embedded into the computer located inside the detector module for real time detection.
NIWA has successfully processed video imagery captured from an autonomous boat in a flume facility in Hamilton planted out with three different submerged plant species.
The research is still in its early days and requires further fieldwork, data collection and software development to evaluate its true potential.
However, NIWA freshwater ecologist Dr Daniel Clements says early detection and prevention is critical for achieving effective freshwater biosecurity outcomes.
“If you can detect high risk invasive species early, before they are widespread, and implement effective management strategies, you minimise the long-term economic, environmental, social, recreational, and cultural impacts caused by these species.
“The development of these detector modules will enable a rapid and cost-effective detection and mapping that can be used over large areas.”
Currently most invasive species surveillance work is carried out by specialist divers. Dr Clements says the new technology has the potential to shift diver expertise from detection effort to implementing control strategies.
“Real gains could be made by operating the modules from fully autonomous surface vessels that can be programmed and deployed without constant supervision.
“Eradicating a freshwater invasive weed by detecting it early is much more feasible and cost-effective than dealing with a widespread incursion in the long term.”