Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

About the project



Weeds in New Zealand are increasing and now outnumber our native flora. Discovering what weeds are where is essential for their effective management, and community observations are increasingly important to uncover new infestations and species.

For 2016, this new project worked with enviro-schools and whanau to discover which weeds occur in three under-collected areas:

  • Auckland, the ‘Weed capital of the world’
  • Gisborne
  • South Island’s West Coast

What we are doing

We are facilitating community driven weed surveys, by teaching school students about botanical and ecologically-based field work. This involves learning about on-site recording, collecting, identifying and processing their weed samples, and sharing their results online.

Year 5-13 students will contribute to a collective understanding of weed and biocontrol agent distributions, and will visit New Zealand’s largest herbarium (the Allan Herbarium in Lincoln) to deposit their plant specimens as permanent collections.

Both traditional resources and cutting-edge identification and data recording technologies are being employed.

Underpinning this project is raising the awareness of environmental impacts of invasive weeds and pest plants, and best practice control strategies.

Where we plan to undertake the project

For 2016, we visited schools of Auckland and Gisborne in the North Island and the West Coast region of the South Island. At least one school from each region were visited.

These regions are weed 'hot-spots’, because their temperate, coastal, and moist climates encourage both diversity of weed species and density of infestations. For example, Auckland is widely known as the 'weed capital of the world’, and is said to have more weeds than any other place on earth.

Many of these regions are under-collected, or with out-of-date collections, due to a lack of resources preventing active accessioning strategies. Within these regions, disturbed sites on publicly accessible land will be selected that have abundant weed habitats. Our local partners from DOC and Regional Councils will help select these sites.

Read the 2016 trip reports:

How we are undertaking this project

Discovery and description of weeds with our target group involves the following steps:

  1. Classroom learning opportunities
    1.1. Understanding plant characters
    1.2. Understanding biological control
    1.3. How to identify weeds
    1.4. Poisonous plants
    1.5. Classroom debate on native versus exotic species
    • Perceptions and values
    • Cultivated plants that ‘jump the fence’
    • Taonga species
    • Endangered natives
  2. Field work
    2.1. First, as a class activity in the school-grounds, local marae and parks, having a ‘treasure-hunt’ to find National Pest Plant Accord species, common weeds and plants that can escape cultivation.
    2.2. Next, in public access areas (e.g., nearby roadside reserves) to record the local weed floras, using digital photography, field data capture smartphone apps, and herbarium presses to collect specimens.
    2.3. Finally, an introduction to hands-on weed control, in conjunction with pest plant officers (DOC and local council staff).
    2.4. And as an added extra, put it all together in a short film to enter the Weedbusters Film Challenge with a chance to win $1000 for your school.
  3. Lab work
    As a travel prize, the keenest student(s) from each school will visit our research campus at Lincoln (e.g., those who made the greatest contributions in the field work). Smartphones used for the fieldwork will also be awarded as prizes. At Lincoln, the students will
    • Learn how to process and deposit their pressed plant specimens into the Allan Herbarium
    • Visit the Insect Quarantine laboratories and facilities
    • Work through the Weed biocontrol education resources.
  4. Data deposition
    4.1. Uploading observations onto NatureWatch NZ: added to both the national Pest Plants (weeds) of NZ project and new student-created local projects. (NatureWatch NZ is broadly like ‘Facebook for researchers’ so is relatively intuitive to use by the target group).
    4.2. Adding specimen data on Landcare Research’s Allan Herbarium specimen database. This will be achieved via an Excel spreadsheet template filled out by the students.
  5. Networks and publicity
    Sharing observations, identifications, and projects with the NatureWatch NZ, Weedbusters, enviro-schools, LEARNZ and Curious Minds communities through social media.

Involve your school

If you would like your school to be involved in 2017 or want more information about the Winning the War against Weeds project please contact:

Murray Dawson - Landcare Research
Phone: (03) 321 9645
Hugh Gourlay - Landcare Research
Phone: (03) 321 9683