Part one

Around the World

10 minute read

We asked Robbie and Craig to talk about the ‘why’ behind going global and the connection between biodiversity & climate change.

Goodnature and its world leading and ethical pest management solutions are the brainchild of two great mates, Robbie Van Dam and Craig Bond, both graduates of Victoria University Design School.

“At the start, we knew we wanted to do something big, that made a contribution and we both loved the bush.. Being outside.. Inventing stuff, concepts, making.. But most of all, it was about working on something together, that was the fun part!,” says Craig.

Fast forward 15+ years, numerous nights spent in any bush block they could feasibly disappear into, perhaps twice as much time spent in their workshop (perhaps too lofty a description!) Goodnature has influenced, been part of and continues to support, numerous conservation projects the world over.

There is little doubt this growth has been underpinned by a strong focus on making a genuine difference via a platform of world leading design and continuous innovation.

“From the beginning, we knew we needed to challenge the way pest control was being done,” Goodnature co-founder Craig Bond says.

“It seemed that the loss of biodiversity was completely preventable if we could think critically about the current solutions and come up with alternatives that we could make work.”

“We needed to come up with something that would help New Zealand and the rest of the world scale up its eradication effort – and to do that we needed to make the technology better and better all the time - to keep refining it.”

“It was clear to me that we should be the ones to improve this thing, not our competition, or another country - we needed to lead.”

The way Robbie sees it, “We’ve never had more to lose - the birds, our environment, the future of our planet - which is terrifying but also presents us with an amazing opportunity. An opportunity to not only lead in biodiversity recovery, but also show what it is to be a good business, being accountable to our people, but also the planet, in a smart, climate friendly way.”

“Business can be used as a mechanism to solve real world problems and do it at a scale,” he adds. “The way the business community can reinvest our energy, expertise and returns into environmental improvement is unparalleled. And while Individuals can't achieve it at the same scale they can still be using their skills to do something great!”.

“It seemed that the loss of biodiversity was completely preventable if we could think critically about the current solutions and come up with alternatives that we could make work.”

“Conservation is a national past-time (in New Zealand)”. We're very connected to nature and we are part of nature. We have a fundamental belief that nature is part of each of us.

So one of the most important things that Goodnature can export to the world is the belief and the understanding that everything we do contributes to the outcome of biodiversity. And if we've got a solution, we should be sharing that as widely as possible. Wherever we can help, we should apply ourselves with real intent. While it's a big commitment, it’s become an important part of who Craig and I are and therefore the driver for our Goodnature mission to Rewild the World.”

Conservation group Mauri Oho installing traps in the Ruahines, North Island, New Zealand. Image credit: Goodnature.

"What is also becoming increasingly clear is the connection between biodiversity decline and climate change."

“So as temperature increases, we're seeing very subtle shifts in genetic diversity which could have dire consequences for many species. Closest to our heart, the Tuatara,” Van Dam says. “Its gender is governed by the soil temperature surrounding the eggs. A slight but consistent increase in our temperatures would see only male Tuatara hatching and the end of natural breeding conditions.”

And while Goodnature will continue to focus on solutions that specifically address global biodiversity issues, they also believe that continually engaging with traditional and non-traditional global communities as part of their work, will increase awareness of wider and associated climate issues and motivate changes in behaviour.

As Robbie says, “Even the most simple measures can make a difference - doing your recycling, having a trap in a backyard, or planting some trees. Everything contributes. It's about making positive and conscious decisions when we're buying things to not over consume. Global overconsumption is inexplicably connected to climate, consumption, habitat change and biodiversity.”

"And it’s this global community, particularly those wanting ‘better’ pest control alternatives where Goodnature traps are being increasingly embraced."

Goodnature global conservation manager Darren Peters is at the forefront of their off-shore conservation projects, which he says ‘mainly come through word of mouth’. “Much like New Zealand, most countries around the world are looking for solutions that don’t impact on native species - they need non-toxic, humane alternatives and we are one of the few in this market.”

“We’re currently working in many European, British, Scandinavian, North & South American and African countries plus offshore territories related to the US and France (Caribbean and Indian Ocean). In the wider Pacific Ocean we have projects underway in the Solomon Islands and Japan”.

Each site, (never mind country!) has different requirements due to the interaction between climate, forest type and the invasive species. While it's a challenge, the process of working out possible solutions with passionate and knowledgeable local conservationists is not only fun but an opportunity to share several decades of NZ monitoring and research.

“It’s quite different to the New Zealand situation where we have around 25 years of focused, measured animal pest control research and monitoring. Though this experience does enable us to provide help beyond a cutting edge trapping device. We can also help them with tools to speed up the process of recovery.”

“Take our friends in Mauritius as an example. From discovering their problem, to laying a Goodnature trapping network, to building on our experience to create a similar rat monitoring system relative to their environment and seeing results, has taken 3 years. Similar work took us 20!”

Goodnature traps are used in many conservation projects internationally. Image credit: Goodnature.

"Working from a baseline ecosystem we can see nature respond rapidly."

“Our job is to work on and control invasive species in areas where they are having an impact on a natural environment. Our scope alone goes to show how widespread the issue is and we’re only scratching the surface”.

At the start of any project a baseline or state of play for ecosystem health will be established. This baseline then becomes a yardstick for measuring progress. Monitoring results and assessing positive outcomes involves not only a reduction in numbers of the invasive species but also that impacted wildlife is recovering.

“On Great Island (in the deep south of NZ) we measured the baseline when we started stoat (mustelid) control. Every year since then, the population of birds has doubled. Nature responds. It does what it needs to do to reach its holding capacity as fast as possible. So a decline can happen over a hundred or a couple of hundred years, a response can be really fast if we act swiftly and effectively.”

Robbie adds to this example “We’ll often use birds as a measure of a project's success. In fact we’ve built it into our Vision to “Add 10 billion birds by 2030”. They’re not only an effective indicator of ecosystem health but also an animal that is relatable the worldover. As David Attenborough said “Everyone likes birds. What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears, as close to us and everyone in the world, as universal as a bird?” and “No one will protect what they don't care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced.”

"Goodnature works on the premise that it’s never too late, ever."

“In Mauritius, they've got less than 2% of native forest left but they're forging on regardless. They’re committed to getting rats under control and have started the slow yet encouraging path to improving forest health that will support a whole range of species,” says Darren.

“Unfortunately, we've missed a number of species across the world. And that's really sad. But where we can catch things at the brink and hold them at the brink we change things quickly”.

“I would never have imagined the solutions we have now to control invasive pests in New Zealand, let alone overseas. I think of young people coming into this space right now. It’s awesome to work with them as they have an infectious excitement at those early progressions. Once they discover that they can control (for example) rats, there’s no stopping them! It’s both satisfying and inspiring to see their energy and enthusiasm!”.

Like this Chirp enabled A24 Rat and Stoat trap in Fiordland, New Zealand, connected traps are an important tool to understand rodent behaviour in changing environments. Image credit: Goodnature.

"A global lens supports world leading solutions."

Continued involvement in global restoration projects plays a vital role in the Goodnature research and development programme.

There are many examples of old and new innovations that have evolved through partnerships with global conservation communities and interactions with invasive species - from a custom version of the Goodnature A24 trap (tweaked to target grey squirrels in the United Kingdom), to a slug repellent rat lure for the US, to a kea blocking accessory supporting Kiwi conservation efforts.

More recently the development of an aerially deployed, biodegradable single use trap being designed as a toxin-free solution for the New Zealand backcountry is drawing heavily on learnings from a project designed to protect native snail species in Hawaii.

“Suffice to say, we see ourselves as truly fortunate to be contributing, partnering and making a difference in these global environments. We don’t take the trust that goes with taking a bet on this brave yet idealistic business, from a tiny country on the fringe of the world, lightly” Darren says. “

“And to honour this, we remain steadfastly committed to developing practical yet innovative solutions to global biodiversity issues”.