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Source: Auckland Council

There is a war taking place across the motu – a war against the moth plant, one that takes over and frequently out-competes and replaces native plants, smothering and strangling whatever it climbs on.

Howick Local Board has risen to the occasion to help improve biodiversity and protect the native environment for future generations.

“Time and time again, locals tell us that protecting and restoring the natural environment is a priority. We’re fortunate to have an amazing community that wants to be involved and it’s our pleasure to be able to support them.” says local board chair Damian Light.

Howick moth plant and waste minimisation celebration cluster hosted by Howick Primary School on June 1.

The competition held earlier this month had four categories – preschool, primary, intermediate, and secondary, where students were tasked to collect as many moth pods as possible to win amazing prizes.

Damian says, “We’re immensely proud of the mahi that our local tamariki and rangatahi are doing to tackle pest plants. And we’re not the only ones – last year the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) acknowledged the incredible achievements of this competition with the national Kura (School) Award in the 2022 Biosecurity Awards.”

MacLean’s Primary Evergreen Enviro Team

Pest Free Howick Moth plant competition coordinators Nigel Zhang on the left, Ethan McCormick middle and Howick Local Board Chair, Damian Light getting into the ‘feeler’ of things.

91 teams signed up for the competition, and it was wonderful to see 57 of them compete for the first time.

Spot prize winners: New Shoots Early childhood centre & Shelley Park School Point View School.

“We’re thrilled to see the return of many schools and groups, as well as many more new participants. By working together, we can do so much more to tackle these invasive species and every year we’re blown away by the incredible success of this competition”, adds Damian.

In total, there was a huge 397 participants, including students, teachers, and parents, join this year and Cate Jessep, Sustainable Schools Advisor for Pest Free Auckland says, “it is incredible to see so many people take part in the moth plant competition, minimising waste raising awareness across Tāmaki Makaurau and Aotearoa, and the huge positive difference they have made to Papatūānuku.”

The total figures from the Howick Moth Pod Plant Competition 2023:

  • 133,507 pods & small vines collected! (Up from 89,738 in 2022)
  • 700 seeds per pod (average estimate)
  • 93,454,900 seeds that will not germinate!
  • 28 Schools minimising waste this year
  • Howick schools have saved 3,195.65kgCO2e through their waste minimisation actions according to the data collected up to now.

A combined total of $5,150 was paid out to the following winners:


  • 1st place: Team Mission Heights KINZ + most small vines pulled (6750 pods)
  • 2nd place: J Squad Pakuranga Kindergarten (2618 pods)
  • 3rd place: Team Cascades Kindergarten (2083 pods)
  • Spot prize: New Shoots Great photos
  • Thickest vine: Point View – 10 cms
  • Most seedlines: Pakuranga Heights
  • Overall best: Farm Cove Intermediate


  • 1ST place: Pakuranga Heights School Pod Squad (20,774 pods)
  • 2nd place: Evergreen Enviroteam Macleans Primary School (15,138 pods)
  • 3rd place: PVS Environment Hero Point View School (12,363 pods)
  • Spot prize: Shelley Park


  • 1st place: SJ Moth Plant killers Farm Cove Intermediate (13,360 pods)
  • 2nd place: Podders of Doom (POD) Farm Cove Intermediate (6962 pods)
  • 3rd place: The Daleks Farm Cove Intermediate (1404 pods)
  • 4th place: Howick Intermediate


  • 1st place: 3 Blind Mice Botany Down Secondary College (5249 pods)
  • 2nd place: Mozilla 2.0 Botany Down Secondary College (1064 pods)
  • 3rd place: Howick College (890 pods)

Navaz Mistry, Elaine, Louisa and Angela, Cascades Enviroschool Kindergarten Kaiako.

When removing this weed from your backyard, remember to wear protective gloves and remove it from the roots along with any pods and vines. Put them in a secure plastic bag and send them to the landfill via your regular council rubbish bins or through a community weed bin in your area.

Thank you very MOTH to all 91 teams, students, teachers, and parents who took part in this event. Special commendations to Howick Primary and Cockle Bay as they had huge numbers of pods.

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