Staff sought for velvetleaf scheme

A new national Community Outreach programme to manage velvetleaf has been established, and three part-time staff, including two based in Canterbury, Otago or Southland, are now being sought to work with farmers, growers and contractors to manage the pest.

A third Community Outreach worker will be in the Waikato.

The Velvetleaf Programme is a partnership between Biosecurity New Zealand/Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) as well as councils and industry groups.

It supports farmers and contractors to manage velvetleaf, prevent its spread and understand its potential impacts for New Zealand.

It is the result of the response to the incursion of velvetleaf, which was introduced to the country in 2016 from contaminated fodder beet seed.

Ministry of Primary Industries' Velvetleaf Programme leader Sam Beaumont said the outreach programme would begin once staff are employed.

It is funded by MPI with support provided by the partner organisations.

''The Community Outreach staff will act as the main point of contact for farmer, grower and rural contractor queries, will support farmers to manage velvetleaf on their properties by implementing Farm Management Plans, and ... will assist with active and passive surveillance, including identifying and engaging groups and individuals to assist [with that],'' Mr Beaumont said.

In addition the outreach staff will identify and work with 'local champions' to advocate for velvetleaf management and test new practices on farm.

They will also contribute to the development of the programme's resources.

''Another part of the job is to feedback information from farmers on how many velvetleaf plants are being found on properties with Farm Management Plans.''

He said they were looking for people with a working knowledge of the farming sector who were good managers, communicators and relationship builders, and had experience working with industry or community groups.

There are about 270 properties in Otago and 400 in Southland where contaminated fodder beet seed was sown in the 2015/16 season.

-By Yvonne O'Hara

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