Everyday plant health heroes

James Buwalda

Chair, Better Border Biosecurity

Biosecurity is a strategic issue impacting the lives and livelihoods of a wide range of people, communities, businesses and institutions.

How did you choose your job? Or did it choose you?

The role appealed to many things that matter to me professionally – science underpinning practical solutions to nationally significant challenges, protecting and enhancing the value of plant-based industries (horticulture, forestry, agriculture), and helping organisations collaborate on large-scale challenges beyond their scope or scale of those each organisation can achieve individually.

How long have you worked in this industry?

10 years.

What does plant health mean to you?

Freedom from deleterious impacts of invasive pests, diseases and weeds. This in turn means our valued plant-based ecosystems – natural and managed – can thrive and support our well-being and prosperity.

What are your greatest achievements in this role?

  1. Sustaining a broad-based collaboration focused on science solutions for border biosecurity
    for New Zealand’s plant-based sectors.
  2. Enabling science to underpin New Zealand’s proactive/pre-emptive biosecurity approach to the risk of brown marmorated stink bug incursion.
  3. Earning and holding the trust and confidence of government and industry stakeholders, that this science collaboration is a valuable asset helping protect their interests.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I chair a number of collaborative ventures, so typically my day involves discussions, meetings and reviewing documents relating to one or more of these. I try to keep up with national and international developments related to the interest of the entities I chair; this means reading widely and looking for connections that my prove important to longer-term strategy, as well as immediate performance. I try to maintain regular contact with key people in each of the organisations I chair, identifying critical issues and risks early and helping resolve these in a timely way.

What advice would you give anybody wanting to get into the industry?

Biosecurity is a strategic issue impacting the lives and livelihoods of a wide range of people, communities, businesses and institutions. You’ll be doing important work for these interests.


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