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Understanding attitudes on new technologies to manage invasive species

June 2019

Publication: Pacific Conservation Biology
Author(s): Kirk N, Kannemeyer R, Greenaway A, MacDonald E, Stronge D.

Invasive animal species threaten global biodiversity. In New Zealand invasive species threaten iconic native species, and scientists are seeking approval to research new technologies that might be capable of eradicating these invasive species. The aim of this research was to understand what New Zealanders with an interest in pest control consider to be the main risks and benefits of introducing new technologies to manage invasive species. We invited key informants to participate in the focus groups, selecting people with knowledge and experience of pest control issues in New Zealand. Data were collected from seven focus groups held in three locations across New Zealand. A thematic analysis of the data was then conducted in which three key themes emerged: concern about the risk of unintended consequences, the benefits of landscape-scale technologies, and New Zealand being an early adopter of new technologies. The focus groups articulated a variety of benefits from introducing new technologies – such as replacing dangerous poisons with non-toxic alternatives – but it was the risks of the new technologies that dominated the discussions. Given these results, we recommend an education and communication strategy focussed on social learning, in conjunction with a codesigned decision-making process, to help establish social licence for the application of potentially controversial technologies.

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