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Tech to help ramp up NZ biosecurity and sustainability

A pioneering virtual reality shipping container packed with simulated biosecurity risk scenarios is helping preserve New Zealand’s ecosystem and way of living.

Two local companies from Hamilton have collaborated to develop cutting edge technology to simulate biosecurity threats. Using virtual reality to assess frontline staff dealing with imported goods is a first for New Zealand.

The project, the chief executive of the VR company said, was the first step in what could be a transformational journey for the biosecurity industry in New Zealand.

The technology has the potential to be used to educate all New Zealanders to identify and respond to biosecurity risks.

The Ministry of Primary Industries has approved the technology to be used in biosecurity refresher training for Accredited Persons (APs).

The course uses virtual reality to train staff dealing with biosecurity contamination immediately post-border in the most realistic way.

The training course is not undertaken in a classroom using a written examination-style assessment. Instead, it offers an online course with a virtual reality assessment that lets trainees demonstrate their practical knowledge and skills.

The technology provides trainees with a realistic environment to properly assess their abilities to detect and respond to biosecurity threats such as foreign insects and vegetation.

The virtual reality tool is the closest and more realistic assessment of skills, replicating real-life situations that may be encountered on the job.

A wireless virtual reality headset allows the person to walk around the simulated container externally and internally, in the same way, that they would in the real world.

The initiative is in line with Biosecurity New Zealand 2025. Biosecurity 2025 is a partnership between people, organisations, Māori, and central, local and regional government.

It aims to make NZ biosecurity system more resilient and future-focused to protect its taonga and New Zealand from pests and diseases.

Biosecurity and development go hand in hand. The primary sector’s strength, resilience and ability to respond to the effects of drought and the global impact of COVID-19 is highlighted by a new report, Situation Outlook for Primary Industries, from MPI today.

The report predicts that the primary sector revenue will rise 0.5% in the year to June 2020 to $46.5 billion.

“The sector is showing its underlying strength and resilience despite the challenging domestic drought and global conditions related to COVID-19,” Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said.

New Zealand has several programmes and funds to promote safety and sustainability. Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones today announced an NZ$ 400,000 Provincial Growth Fund grant for a regional digital hub in Ōpōtiki.

The hub will offer digital services such as Wi-Fi, video conferencing and hot desks, and will connect the community to work, training, mentoring and business opportunities.

“Connectivity is an essential part of doing business while lifting regional productivity, economic development and the wellbeing of communities. I’m pleased to see the PGF funding a regional digital hub for Ōpōtiki which will be open for local people and visitors to use,” Shane Jones said.

Recently, a New Zealand government programme to wipe out pea weevil has also achieved a world first, with Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor announcing the successful eradication of the noxious pest from Wairarapa.

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