PPBS Case Study - Auckland Botanic Gardens

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Rebecca (Bec) Stanley is Curator at the Auckland Botanic Gardens nursery, which is within the gardens on Hill Road, Manurewa. Bec has a team of three nursery workers who propagate plants for revegetation within the gardens and for parks throughout the Auckland City Council area. The nursery also buys plants in for the Gardens and propagates plants from the Gardens.

Bec said the nursery took part in the Plant Producers Biosecurity Scheme pilot because the council had an extremely important part to play in biosecurity e.g. with Kauri dieback and Myrtle rust. Her nursery could also potentially adversely affect the parks in the Auckland region if biosecurity was inadequate. It supplies 26 parks so if any disease is in nursery plants it potentially goes to 26 parks in the Auckland region

Bec said the PPBS process was relatively straightforward as the nursery had gone through the NZPPI Nursery Production Farm Management System https://nzppi.co.nz/fms.

“We’ve been practising biosecurity for four years now so the scheme has not been a massive change for us. But would have been if we hadn’t undertaken FMS. What is different is that we now write processes and protocols down. Until we went through this pilot we had no nursery manual as the FMS doesn’t require one; you just go through an audit then run around and do everything the audit requires.

“The actual process of writing the manual down was very useful as we reviewed our systems while writing it. We tweaked and improved some systems. It is going to be very useful.”

The PPBS pilot highlighted other gaps in nursery systems:

  • The need for documentation i.e. when plants came in from offsite they were visually checked and put in the quarantine station but nothing was documented. Now the dockets are signed off.
  • Processes established under the FMS were targeted at outside people coming into the nursery but not the wider botanic gardens staff: “The staff induction for nursery people is awesome, including volunteers, but we hadn’t included other botanic gardens staff. Other nurseries might encounter the same issue when it comes to contractors – it’s important everyone knows the biosecurity protocols.”

Time investment

Bec said other nurseries should be realistic on how much time was required to implement the PBBS.

“Our nursery team are experts at their job but the focus is on the plants not writing down processes.  However as we had the background of the FMS, we had done the work so capturing it and collating it in a manual was not impossible. It would have been a lot more time consuming otherwise.”

“I did look on the time (put into the PPBS) as an investment rather than an intrusion. I set down two hours a week with staff. I followed them around and documented what they did. It did help them understand some processes better as it clarified the reasons why we did things the way we did.”

Staff response

“My nursery staff loves learning new stuff as basic nursery work can be repetitive, time-consuming and back breaking. New work is always a bit intimidating but once we all realised nursery biosecurity is about hygiene and we would be working in a cleaner, tidier working environment – with new stainless steel benches etc – it was easy to accept this new way of working.”

Her staff were now really motivated by the joint problem solving and the PPBS had motivated them to think about new ways of doing things. “They know they can bring ideas to the table and they will be taken seriously.”

Benefits

Bec said implementing the scheme would improve the nursery’s overall productivity because systems have been streamlined.

“We are now tidier so there is a better process flow. We have one area for quarantine, another area for sprays etc. We have a big clean up at the end of each day so every morning everything works better and faster. We don’t lose equipment anymore and all equipment is left clean and ready. We have compartmentalised things a lot and upgraded equipment including benching, scoria levels, footbaths and foot scrubbers.  This might be expensive for smaller nurseries but in the process of introducing better hygiene these nurseries might experience fewer plant diseases and so plant health improves.”

She said the scheme will add value to the nursery as it provides another reassurance to our parks people that our plants are clean. “We now have evidence of our processes and protocols so we can demonstrate our plant hygiene to parks and also to the truck delivery person.”

Suggestions for the future of the scheme

“I think it’s important that there is some way to share resources and knowledge with others on the scheme. Some kind of networking mechanism would be very useful as nurseries that have a different core business than us might do things differently and we could benefit from knowing about that.”

Face to face would be better in some cases such as specialist seminars on plant hygiene etc, Bec said.

“And maybe a tour of someone else’s nursery that has been through the process or someone from that nursery becomes an informal guide to help another. My team loves learning, and sharing, and this is more useful when you can actually see how another nursery goes about this  “

It might also be useful for some nurseries to have an NZPPI expert to assist with writing nursery manuals / biosecurity manuals. There aren’t many opportunities in our nursery for stopping and writing as the cycle of growing is continuous.

Recommend to other nurseries?

Bec said yes she would recommend other nurseries go through the scheme because the more nurseries which do, the better it reflects on the industry.

However she said the smaller nurseries with difficult sites may find it a struggle as well as those who hadn’t been through the FMS.

“The advice I would give others is that just to take it one step at a time. We started this process 5 years ago with the FMS. This level of change doesn’t happen overnight but you can do it in a manageable way.”

22-Aug-2019

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