The Nelson Mail, a stalwart of 150 years, set out to bring people together by championing a local issue close to the hearts and minds of its readers.
New Zealand has the highest densities of German and common wasps in the world, and the Nelson-Tasman region has been declared the ‘wasp capital’ of New Zealand.
Fairfax Media and the Nelson Mail partnered with the Department of Conservation to eradicate these two invasive wasp species using Vespex – a locally developed low toxicity, protein-based bait, which is laid in bait stations in late January and early February. This is a tiny window when wasps change to a protein-based diet. The bait is safe for bees and pets.
The core idea was to create a community-wide crowdfunding and education campaign utilising the Nelson Mail, in print and online, to show the community how wasps devastate native species and the environment, and what they could do about it.
Fairfax Media created a fundraising platform that made donating accessible and showed donors where their money was going. To ensure they had enough volunteer power the Nelson Mail encouraged the community to register with DOC to become an approved Vespex bait user, allowing them to place bait around their homes and neighbourhoods.
Journalists engaged and educated people across different topics affected by wasps. This included looking at the environmental impacts of wasps consuming the food sources for native birds and invertebrates, and their attacks on the baby birds; the economy and the impacts on tourism and the honey industry; and human well-being.
Each of these points was covered through in-depth multimedia journalism, incorporating editorial, display advertising, community-generated content, infographics and videos.
With timing a critical factor, the multi-media campaign was executed with military precision. Wasp Wipeout Week was a three-phased approach that sourced funding for the bait; a call for volunteers (including training); and a call to arms – a reminder to place their bait.
The initiative increased accessibility to the fundraising campaign for businesses, and the community outreach extended to schools and service clubs. The money raised enabled the programme to cover 390 km of Nelson’s Beech forest.
The success of the campaign created a valuable blueprint for future Wasp Wipeout missions, and most importantly for Fairfax Media, the initiative halted the Nelson Mail’s decline in sales and revenue.