WWF's Conservation Innovation Awards


Catch up on all the latest news, blogs and FAQs about the Conservation Innovation Awards here


The NZ RiverWatch invention is inspiring interest from regional councils, farmers and researchers as a game changer for freshwater monitoring.

The team at Water Action Initiative New Zealand (WAI NZ) is now seeking support via PledgeMe campaign to get the RiverWatch Water Sensor into production so that all Kiwis can find out what's really going on in their waterways. To support this campaign, please visit here. Any pledge you're able to make brings this innovation one step closer to saving New Zealand's freshwater.

A 2016 WWF Conservation Innovation Awards winner, the RiverWatch Water Sensor has been developed by WAI NZ in collaboration with students from Victoria University of Wellington's School of Engineering and Computer Science.

Read more in yesterday's Newsroom NZ article - Farmer: Govt unwilling to show state of NZ water.

Inventor Grant Ryan says new technologies and data crunching should mean New Zealand is predator-free before the Government's set target of 2050.

Grant's The Cacophony Project - Modern Information Technology to eliminate Predators from New Zealand was a 2016 Conservation Innovation Awards entrant.

Check out this great Newsroom story and video by Mark Jennings (5 July 2017).



2015 Conservation Innovation Awards winner, the Uawanui Project has been in the news this month.

The Uawanui Project continues to move ahead with a range of key initiatives. Recent important achievements include:  Working with QEII Trust, Weedbusters and WWF- New Zealand to support weed control training and begin developing a local cadet crew (Gisborne Herald, June 27).

The Uawanui Project was mentioned in Gisborne Herald (June 23) story about a young scientist raised in Ruatoria who has been awarded the Fulbright Science and Innovation Graduate Award and hopes to inspire more Tairawhiti students to get into science.“Whether in the traditional route, such as university, or community projects such as Uawanui Project, where all the kids are involved in taking water samples and planting trees" 

In the news too also (Gisborne Herald, June 19 )was the Tangaroa Ara Rau project which involves Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti and the community under their Uawanui Project, working together with science organisations to develop understanding and innovation about safe and sustainable food gathering. 

Recognising environmental and conservation initiatives throughout New Zealand, yesterday the finalists for the 2017 Green Ribbon Awards were announced.

This is excellent news for two Conservation Innovation Awards (CIA) finalists. Congratulations to the teams and communities of Fairfax Media/Nelson Mail and Polhill Protectors/The Polhill Project.

In the Business Leadership category is Wasp Wipeout by Fairfax Media Nelson Mail. Wasp Wipeout was a 2016 CIA finalist.

In the Community Leadership category is Polhill Protectors/The Polhill Project. The Polhill Project was a CIA 2015 finalist with Saddleback in the city and a CIA 2016 finalist with “Predator Free New Zealand: the Facebook frontier.

The national 2017 Green Ribbon Awards, now in its 27th year, plays an important role in celebrating and raising the profile of outstanding contributions by individuals, communities and organisations to protect and manage New Zealand’s environment.

All Green Ribbon Awards finalists will be invited to attend a ceremony at Parliament on 8 June. Winners will be announced for each category, including the overall supreme winner. Check out media release and read the finalists’ stories on the Green Ribbon Awards website www.greenribbonawards.org.nz

The River Watch sensor is set help community members take action and monitor the water quality in their local rivers, giving real time data on the health of the waterways.

This great initiative, developed by Water Action Initiative (WAI) New Zealand in collaboration with students and staff from the Victoria University of Wellington, was a 2016 Conservation Innovation Awards winner.

Check out this TV news story from Newshub (24 April 2017) - click here. Many thanks to Newshub reporter Isobel Ewing for this report.



Vespula wasps are having a devastating impact on NZ environment, people and economy.

The Nelson Mail and Stuff yesterday launched Wasp Wipeout, a community-led conservation project that aims to significantly reduce German and common wasp populations in the Nelson-Tasman region this summer.

Wasp Wipeout was a 2016 WWF Conservation Innovation Awards (CIA) finalist and Vespex® was a 2015 WWF CIA winner. Read on for project introduction by Victoria Guild, Nelson Regional editor...

Anyone who has encountered a wasp knows how nasty the insects can be: they attack baby birds in their nests and fledging native bats, remove a huge amount of food sources from the ecosystem, as well as having awful stings.

This summer, Nelson Mail is mobilising the whole community to significantly reduce German and common wasp populations in our popular conservation, recreation and urban areas.

The battle plan is to use the extremely effective wasp bait Vespex (developed right here in Nelson) and place bait stations across the region.
To do this, Nelson Mail is leading a crowdfunding campaign to get more bait stations out across the region. The more we can raise, the more bait stations we can put out and the greater chance we have of solving Nelson's wasp problem.
German and common wasps
These wasps are introduced invaders that feed on our honeydew-rich beech forests, fledgling bats and native baby birds. The three national parks surrounding the Nelson region are prime breeding grounds for the wasps.
What is Vespex?
Vespex is a low toxicity, protein based bait that's laid in bait stations in late January and February, when wasps change to a protein-based diet. It's safe for bees and pets. Find out more at: www.merchento.com
Who else is involved?
The Nelson Mail is coordinating with groups such as the Department of Conservation, the Tasman Environmental Trust, Nelson City Council, Tasman District Council and pest control groups, to work collaboratively to knock back the wasp populations. We'll be publishing stories discussing the wasp problem and the difference we can make.
Five businesses have already committed $9500 to the project. If you'd like to join them, you can do so here.
Join the battle
If you'd like to do it yourself by organising your community, or neighbourhood, to bait in your area then you'll need an approved user to buy the bait and a couple of volunteers to put out the stations. One small bucket can cover 50 homes. All the details on how to DIY are here at www.merchento.com/vespex

Imagine visiting a national park, going for a bike ride, or holding a picnic or bbq at one of our popular outdoor spots without having to worry about pesky wasps ruining your day!

Join the battle and register your interest here.

For more information, check out: 

Why are we getting involved in wasp control?

Mini-documentary looking at the impacts of wasps

Wasp Wipeout: A community-led project reclaim our outdoors from pests

Wasp Wipeout: Frequently asked questions

Using drone trackers for wildlife research, monitoring health of waterways and developing an app to help Kauri conservation – these are the winning ideas of WWF-New Zealand’s 2016 Conservation Innovation Awards, announced today.

The Kiwi innovators behind these ideas will each be awarded a $25,000 grant to recognise their contribution to innovation in conservation. The three winners will be congratulated at an event in Wellington tonight, MCed by journalist and public speaker, Rod Oram, and with Hon Steven Joyce, Minister of Science and Innovation, as the keynote speaker.
The winning ideas are:

DroneCounts wants to take wildlife tracking to the next level, with a model that can pick up several signals and map wildlife in an area. The men behind the invention are Auckland-based John Sumich (Ark in the Parkand Habitat Te Henga) and Philip Solaris (X-craft). “This award will open opportunities to enable our innovation to assist the urgent fight to stem the tragic loss of species, both locally and globally,” Mr Solaris said. “A prototype has already been deployed that is capable of detecting multiple transmitter signals, on differing frequencies, which to our knowledge is a world first. The aim now is to increase the autonomy of the aircraft, enabling it to track, locate and record these signals in the most efficient way without the need of human intervention”.
River Watch Water Testing Device
Water quality is really important to many Kiwis. This device will give community members the opportunity to take action and monitor the water quality in their local rivers, giving real time data on the health of the waterways. The River Watch Water Tester has been developed by Water Action Initiative (WAI) New Zealand in collaboration with students from Victoria University of Wellington's School of Engineering and Computer Science. This simple floating device helps determine the health of New Zealand’s waterways by measuring temperature, conductivity, turbidity and pH levels. The River Watch water device logs data over a 48-hour period, is simple to operate, portable and inexpensive. Behind the initiative is South Wairarapa farmer Grant Muir and his son James Muir. Grant Muir said “This award will allow for the nationwide roll out of the prototype and will have a major impact on the restoration of our fresh water for generations to come”.

Stop Kauri Dieback – helping to save our Kauri
Kauri dieback disease is having a devastating effect on the giants of our forest, and there is no known cure. It is critical that we know where outbreaks are occurring as soon as possible. Peter Handford and Daniel Bar-Even from Groundtruth are developing an app which will allow people to record and map dieback sightings, so they can take simple steps to avoid spreading it – like washing their boots or staying away from the area. Peter Handford said “Stop Kauri Dieback will enable all forest visitors, trampers, walkers and conservation volunteers to record sightings of the deadly disease kauri dieback. This will help those fighting kauri dieback to gain a better picture of the impact this disease is having, and where to focus their attention to combat the disease”.

WWF’s Conservation Innovation Awards, supported by The Tindall Foundation, celebrate innovation and collaboration, with the aim to find and support the best innovative ideas for conservation from talented and passionate Kiwis.
WWF’s Head of New Zealand Projects, Michele Frank, said the entries submitted to this year’s awards were inspirational.
“These awards are an exciting collaboration between people who are all passionate about improving the natural environment. Using a crowdsourcing website, entrants posted their ideas publicly, joined discussions with site visitors and then adapted their ideas in response to comments,” Ms Frank said.
“We are proud to be celebrating our winners for being at the forefront of conservation thinking and committed to developing ideas that look set to change the game. By harnessing creativity like this we can bring better tools to the community volunteer army and better protect our wildlife, sooner.”
This year there were 41 entries from across the country including Kaipara Harbour, Thames, Paekakairki, Christchurch, Golden Bay, Motueka, Katikati, Stewart Island, Marlborough Sounds, Te Puke, Martinborough, Motueka, Nelson, and Rotorua.
An independent judging panel looked for new ideas that had practical application and could benefit grass roots conservation groups. 2016 judges included: Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Matthew Monahan (Kiwi Connect); Head of Industrial Design & Innovation at Auckland University of Technology, Shane Inder; environmental research champion, Justine Daw (General-Manager of Landcare Research); and conservation visionary and Director of Project Janszoon, Devon McLean.

Many thanks everyone for your support of the Conservation Innovation Hub this year. Did you know we now have 2088 supporter profiles, with nearly 600 new supporters this year!

And it’s been a great year for entries – 41! Our 2016 entries attracted an impressive 742 Likes and 446 comments. Entries came in from across the country including – Rotorua, Martinborough, Upper Hutt, Wellington, Auckland,  Nelson City, Motueka, Golden Bay, Paekakairki, Marlborough Sounds, Te Puke, Katikati, Stewart Island, Christchurch, Thames, and Lake Hawea. Many thanks to everyone who submitted an entry.

There were 20 finalists for the 2016 Conservation Innovation Awards. Well done to:

The winning ideas for WWF’s 2016 Conservation Innovation Awards will be announced tomorrow. The Kiwi innovators behind these winning ideas will each be awarded a $25,000 grant to recognise their contribution to innovation in conservation.

Stay tuned for the results...

You can read about the 2016 Conservation Innovation Awards here:









In 2015, Nelson-based Richard Toft won a WWF Conservation Innovation Award for the development of Vespex®, a protein-based wasp bait. Vespex® has been credited as the most effective tool for wide-area control of wasps and a "real game-changer" in the battle against both common and German wasps.

For more details - check out today's Stuff article "Wiping out invasive wasps a 'critical issue' for New Zealand's environment" by Jonathan Carson.

With weeds in New Zealand costing billions to control and often causing irreversible damage to ecosystems, the University of Otago is bringing the war on weeds into the hi-tech space with help from a 2014 Conservation Innovation Awards grant. You may have heard the news on Radio New Zealand on 31 October.

New Zealand farmers now have a new weapon in the fight against the noxious velvetleaf weed: the camera on their iPhone.

Identifying one of the world’s worst weeds is set to become much easier with the launch of Flora Finder - Weed, a new smartphone app that can detect the aggressive velvetleaf weed that has affected many arable crops in New Zealand. Its outbreak has been associated with contamination of fodder beet seed varieties imported into the country.

The app, available for iOS devices, has more than 100 common weed species in its database. Flora Finder is an electronic field guide that uses visual recognition software to help users identify plants from photographs of their leaves and access expert advice.

Flora Finder - Weed is a joint project between the University of Otago and Kiwi app developer, MEA, with support from WWF-New Zealand and The Tindall Foundation.

According to Dr Graham Strong, commercialisation manager at Otago Innovation – the commercialisation arm of the University of Otago, “the app is designed to quickly identify the most common weeds, along with native trees and shrubs. This represents a real step-change in a battle against weeds that has existed since the advent of organised agriculture”.

Gabriel Engel, CEO of MEA, says that Flora Finder is a prime example of how apps are changing the way we deal with real-world problems: “Flora Finder makes everyday people part of the solution. With this app, we have placed the solution to one of the farming industry’s biggest pests in the hands of the people who are most directly affected.”

If the app identifies a plant as velvetleaf, users should follow the Ministry for Primary Industries’ advice

Otago Department of Botany Senior Lecturer Dr Janice Lord, says Flora Finder – Weed was developed to support famers and land managers in weed control which was a significant concern to agricultural and environmental sustainability.

“Weeds cause millions of dollars of damage to our pastures, crops, and gardens each year. Weedy plants are also a great threat to New Zealand’s parks, reserves, coasts, bush remnants, wetlands and alpine areas.

The base Flora Finder technology was developed in 2013 and is expanding to include native, naturalised and exotic plants from across the entire country.

“Even if for some reason the app can’t identify the plant, users can take a photo and through the app send it to the Botany Department and we’ll identify it for them,” says Dr Lord.

In the case of velvetleaf, this service will prove especially valuable in winter when these plants are dead.

“The leaf image recognition function would not work well in this instance, so the added ability of the app to connect the user with an expert means velvetleaf could be identified from other features such as seed heads, even if leaves are not present,” she says.

“With Flora Finder you become an instant expert in identifying NZ plants – it’s like having the world’s most famous plant experts in your pocket ready to help you when you need them.”

Flora Finder can be downloaded from iTunes.

For more Flora Finder news, visit:

2015. Fight Against Weeds goes Hi-tech

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