Open Innovation for a Predator-Free New Zealand

Published Oct-02-17

Cat curfews and other ideas to help New Zealand become a predator-free country.

Landcare Research, New Zealand

The Story:

Open Innovation for a Predator-Free New Zealand In recent years, New Zealand has embarked on a drive to become predator free. Invasive predators such as feral cats, ship rats, stoats, and possums threaten the survival of native species. To counter this threat New Zealand's government has announced an aspirational target of making the country predator-free by the middle of this century.

It has been estimated that since humans and other land mammals first arrived in New Zealand about 750 years ago, the number of native vertebrate animals has nearly halved. There is also a huge financial burden with the government spending millions each year on pest-control initiatives. Additionally, these predators cost more than three billion New Zealand dollars per annum in lost productivity.

The total area of this island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean is about 268,000 square kilometers and there are countless places for predators to hide. The task of getting rid of them permanently is a colossal one.

New Thinking

In addition to research, the development of new technologies, community initiatives, and predator management programs it is widely recognized that left of field thinking is needed. Hence an engagement with open innovation processes to source ideas that professionals may not have come up with.

In 2014, research institute Landcare Research launched a 13-day crowdsourcing challenge called ‘The Predator-Free New Zealand Challenge’. An online crowd was asked for their ideas and integrative solutions in any of four topic areas related to predator management. They were laws, financial incentives, research and technology and regulations and policies.

"The possibility of ridding the country of introduced vertebrate pests – and the obvious benefits to our precious native flora and fauna, to our economy and our sense of national identity – has captured the imagination of New Zealanders since being raised by the late Sir Paul Callaghan in 2011," said Landcare Research’s Dr Bruce Warburton.

"But to overcome the significant technological, social, economic and legal challenges, we’ll need some creative thinking, something New Zealanders excel at."

More than 250 citizens registered to take part and among these were students, researchers and people who worked in fishing, farming, horticulture, and forestry. This resulted in the generation of 134 ideas and more than 500 comments. While some of the ideas were not necessarily new there were some that were put forward for further discussion among representatives from the Department of Conservation, community-based pest controllers and TBfree New Zealand.

Among the most promising ones were mandatory cat curfews, laws regarding microchipping and desexing of cats, tax breaks for landowners doing their own predator control and an initial focus on offshore island eradications.

Big Task Ahead

There is now a huge amount of effort going into making the country predator-free by the year 2050 and it’s country-wide involving communities, public and private sectors, research programs and crowdsourcing projects. And success has already been glimpsed. To date, predators have been cleared from more than 100 islands and currently, eradication trials are underway to clear mainland sites.

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