New Zealand apples in hot demand and growers are struggling to keep up

Growers are struggling to keep up with demand for New Zealand apples, with a record number of trees being planted for the upcoming season.

Despite dire predictions a few years ago the apple industry here is now as the world's most competitive with it on course to become a billion dollar exporter.

"We've doubled our apple production to what it was two years ago and moving forward we are looking at getting bigger and bigger," Marty Cooke from Le Cooke Nursery told 1 NEWS.

The only problem facing the rapidly growing industry is a shortage of workers to fill the labour gap.

"Our demand is growing, but the harvest window doesn't change so we still have to pick in a defined period," Ian Pollard from NZ Apples and Pears said.

With more than a million apple trees set to be planted this year there will be plenty of work for those keen to join this ripening industry.

The local industry is now ranked as the world's most competitive. Source: 1 NEWS



Move to stop cull of around 20,000 South Island tahr gaining support

A battle over an impending cull of South Island tahr could soon head to court, with hundreds throwing their support behind a legal challenge.

A crowdfunding campaign by the New Zealand Tahr foundation has raised more than $75,000 in just a few days.

They're aiming to stop a plan set out to cull 17,500 tahr focusing around Rakaia-Rangitata and Gammack-Two Thumbs, on top of the 3,000 already killed. They also plan to reduce two other areas to 'zero density’ which could mean a further 5,000.

Conservation minister Eugenie Sage says the cull is vital to reduce the population which is estimated to be around 35,000.

"The population of tahr is estimated to be at over three times the level allowed by the control plan. That's having a major impact on our special alpine plants," she said

"80 per cent of our plants are only found here in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Tahr browsing and trampling can destroy snow tussocks and can have a major effect on them."

But Greg Dulaney, a hunting representative from the NZ Tahr Foundation, says the minister hasn't consulted with them properly, and more work needs to be done to determine the exact number of the population.

"The ministers own science has this huge margin for error, and they say it can be anywhere between 17,000 and 50,000, so we've got this middle number," he said.

"When you come up with this proposal which if they have their way is 25,000 plus animals, and the population is somewhere in that spectrum, this is essentially eradication by another name."

The Department of Conservation is hoping to have completed a cull of at least 10,000 by mid-November, but opponents are expected to seek a court injunction to stop the process before then.

Officials say tahr numbers have to be limited to protect the landscape. Source: 1 NEWS

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Needles found in strawberries at Auckland Countdown

Needles were found in a punnet of strawberries sourced from Western Australia, which was bought in a Countdown supermarket in Auckland.

Countdown has withdrawn a brand of Australian strawberries from sale as a precautionary measure, and is advising customers to cut up strawberries before consuming them.

The Choice brand of strawberries was sold nationwide last week.

In a press release today Countdown says "we take food safety very seriously and we have withdrawn any remaining Choice strawberries from sale from Countdown, SuperValue and FreshChoice supermarkets while we investigate this with our suppliers.

"Customers can return any Choice brand of strawberries they may have at home to Countdown for peace of mind and a full refund.

"As an extra precaution and following similar advice from public health authorities in Australia, customers should cut up any Australian strawberries before eating them.

"There have been no reports of any illness or injury in New Zealand. The strawberries affected by this withdrawal have not previously had any issues of this nature reported and had not been withdrawn from sale in Australia."

Countdown is in contact with both New Zealand and Australian authorities as they investigate this matter.

A spokesperson from Foodstuffs NZ told 1 NEWS that Pak'nSave and New World do not stock the brand of strawberries in question.

Foodstuffs NZ say they have already pulled all Australian-sourced strawberries from their shelves.

NSW authorities are investigating more than 20 incidents of needles found in strawberries. Source: Breakfast

The news comes after a spate of similar incidents in Australia led to a young boy being arrested after police say he admitted to putting needles in strawberries.

NSW Acting Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith said detectives had arrested one young boy over an incident that "could be a prank", 7 NEWS reports.

"Obviously in the last few days we found a young person has admitted to a prank, including putting needles in strawberries, and he’ll be dealt with under the youth cautioning system," the acting assistant commissioner said.

Anyone found guilty of contaminating food could soon face a maximum of 15 years in prison, up from 10 years in Australia.

Countdown says the strawberries came from Western Australia. Source: 1 NEWS


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Auckland Council says anti-1080 protesters trapped staff

Anti-1080 protesters allegedly locked Auckland Council staff members in the Hunua Ranges Regional Park last night.

The council dropped 1080 in the ranges earlier today after an interim junction stopping the drop lapsed on Friday evening.

Auckland Council parks, sports and recreation manager, Mace Ward, said they were trapped in the park for more than an hour.

"We were able to remove those chains and exit the park safely and secure the park overnight. What also happened overnight we had graffiti on signage and some of our toilets and facilities."

Mr Ward said following today's drop, staff would now clear tracks and test water quality in the ranges.

The council was given the go ahead to drop the poison after the interim injunction lapsed on Friday evening.

The Friends of Sherwood Trust won a temporary injunction in the Environment Court halting the major pest control programme two weeks ago.

However, on Friday the court refused the Trust's bid to further halt the drop.

Mr Ward said the first block of the operation, which covers 16,000 hectares, was set to be completed today.

Department of Conservation staff say in the past month they've had their car tyres slashed and wheel nuts loosened. Source: 1 NEWS

The pre-feed drop, which was completed before the drop was temporarily suspended, did not need to be repeated, Mr Ward said.

Following today's drop, staff will then work to clear tracks and test water quality in the ranges, he said.

On Friday, council staff phoned more than 100 households near the drop site to give them the required notice.

The action follows a recent spike in anti-1080 protests including one last week when dead birds were placed on the steps of Parliament, with activists claiming they were poisoned by the toxin.

However, after police were called in to investigate if the birds had in fact been bludgeoned, one of the protesters admitted some were actually road kill.

But a community board member said many residents in the Hunua Ranges did not oppose 1080 being dropped in the area.

Franklin Local Board member Malcolm Bell said no one wants to drop the toxin, but it needs to be done.

"We're in the situation where if we don't then wildlife, particularly the birds, are likely to be reduced drastically in numbers to the point actually where we probably won't have any native birds in the Hunua Ranges if we don't take action," he said.

There is a small minority of individuals in the area who oppose the drop, Mr Bell said.

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Source: rnz.co.nz


Warnings as more heavy snow on the way for South Island

Motorists are being warned about several roads that are forecast to be hit with heavy snow tonight and tomorrow.

A cold front is forecast to move north across the country tomorrow, while a low develops to the east of the South Island and then moves away to the east late Tuesday.

A drop in temperatures, showers and snow was forecast over the South Island for tomorrow, and possibly across the lower and central North Island on Tuesday.

MetService said the cold snap was expected to affect many higher roads and farms in those areas, and there was a moderate risk the snow would reach warning criteria about inland Canterbury and Kaikōura from Monday evening.

According to Metservice, rain is expected to turn to snow tomorrow at several passes, including Lewis Pass (State Highway 7), Arthur's Pass (State Highway 73), Porters Pass (State Highway 73), Haast Pass (State Highway 6), Lindis Pass (State Highway 8).

Meanwhile, this evening snow is also expected to hit Crown Range Road, and the Milford Road (State Highway 94) tunnel.

A heavy snow watch was also in place north and south of the Rangitata River, North and Central Otago, and Dunedin.

The road snow warnings follow on from last week's snow blitz in Queenstown, when hundreds of people were left without power after trees knocked down power poles and numerous roads were shut.

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But residents and stranded tourists made the most of the big dump. Source: 1 NEWS