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Protecting the predator-free islands of the Hauraki Gulf


26 June 2019

Auckland ferry operator Fullers360 works with DOC to carry out strict biosecurity standards for crew and customers

As an iconic ferry operator in the Hauraki Gulf, Fullers360 helps visitors access the beautiful islands and coastal destinations in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park. Ferries travel daily to the predator-free conservation islands including Rangitoto, Rotoroa, Tiritiri Matangi, as well as servicing Motutapu and Motuihe. As these treasured islands are home to some of New Zealand’s most rare native species, Fullers360 takes our responsibility of biosecurity seriously.

Fullers360 holds a pest-free warrant for the entire fleet, meeting DOC and Auckland Council’s biosecurity standards for vessels to visit the conservation islands.  The certification involves an annual inspection to assess how well a tourism operator applies biosecurity measures and communicates these to customers. But at Fullers360, we take this notion of guardianship a step further – by actively partnering with DOC and the local island restoration trusts to aid in conservation programmes, like transporting kiwi and wetapunga to their new island homes. 

Biosecurity starts with crew understanding and passion

A successful biosecurity programme relies on crew and their belief in the importance of protecting the islands and their precious inhabitants. At Fullers360, there’s a general consensus among staff and crew that we’re beyond lucky to call the Hauraki Gulf home – and this is reinforced through our organisation’s purpose and values we live by.

Our crew receive biosecurity training during induction, staring with a video illustrating how it’s up to us to keep the islands pest free. They learn that Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands became pest free in 2011, a cost of $3.7 million and three years of hard work to complete. One single pest can reverse all this hard work and expense – and even close the island for a significant period of time.

Crew learn how to complete bag checks for unsealed food and stowaway rodents, Argentine ants and plague skinks, and to ensure all passengers use the footbrush stations to ensure their shoes are free of soil and seeds. They’re thoroughly trained on how to screen customers before boarding and give them positive reinforcement for helping us care for the islands.

But training doesn’t stop there. Our Crew Development Managers have ongoing training programmes to keep crew engaged. As one example, all vessels have pest traps on board (per biosecurity standards), and while it’s not often we find a live pest, soft toys are placed on the traps for crew to find during regular checks – and turn in for prizes as a reward.

Educating our customers – from ticket purchase to boarding the vessel

This type of ongoing crew training translates directly to our customers’ understanding of how their actions affect the native species who live on the beautiful Hauraki Gulf islands. Before every sailing heading to a pest-free island, a crew member specialising in biosecurity procedures delivers a full briefing to customers on the wharf. Of course, a bit of humour is included to keep things relatable – a perfect way to connect with visitors about to embark on an island adventure.

Beyond our thorough wharf checks, we embed biosecurity messages throughout the customer’s purchase journey. On the Fullers360 website, information about each destination includes important tips about how to plan and pack for visiting a predator-free island – and printed tickets have a full section with important reminders. And at our ticket offices and kiosks, staff communicate this verbally to anyone purchasing fares for the islands.

We’ve turned all these points of contact with customers into positive biosecurity opportunities. This means their customers arrive at the wharf prepared to enjoy a day in a very special part of New Zealand -- without any risk to the wildlife or their habitat.

Strong partnerships with DOC and island trusts elevate our commitment

If you’re travelling to one of the predator-free islands, chances are there will be a member of the island trust or a DOC ranger on the vessel with you – and sometimes a Conservation Dog in tow!

Fullers360 has a long-standing partnership with DOC to provide free travel for rangers carrying out conservation work. We issue DOC employees with Green Cards to board the ferry at any time – whether carrying out regular pest surveillance or responding urgently to a pest incursion.

For example, when there were reports of a rat on Tiritiri Matangi Isalnd in November 2017, DOC launched a major operation to catch the pest. Volunteers, rangers and conservation dogs travelled to the island daily, searching and checking tracking tunnels for signs of the pest. Fullers360 lent support with complementary transport for the teams, leading to the successful trapping of the rat in January 2018.

Fullers360 also supports wildlife releases, as native species are translocated to pest-free islands where they can thrive away from predators. In June 2018, Fullers360 helped DOC, Auckland Zoo and the Supporters of Tiritiri Matangi transport some very special cargo, 150 wetapunga. Hoping to help bolster the population and improve the species’ genetic diversity, this is the fourth release of wetapunga on the island since 2011 – which we’ve also had the privilege of supporting.

Beyond the wetapunga, kiwi or takahe we take into our care, we also help island trusts bring volunteers to the islands for special conservation projects like tree planting days and beach cleanups. As one example, we’ve been providing discounted travel to the Motutapu Restoration Trust’s volunteers for more than 25 years, resulting in 500,000 trees planted over that time.

We love helping Aucklanders get out to explore their own backyard, the beautiful Hauraki Gulf. We don’t take our role lightly, and are always finding ways to improve our biosecurity programme to protect the islands we travel to every day.

View Fullers' biosecurity training video