Scientists team up with school kids to unlock secrets of the manuka tree

Scientists are teaming up with school kids to unlock the secrets of one of our most treasured plants - manuka.

Dave Warren, a professor at the University of Otago and one of the project's co-leaders, says the students' help will help provide new scientific knowledge.

"Scientists have known there may be some active chemicals in there, but we need to know more if we're going to take the science further, so this is really finding what is in the leaves because we don't really know," Professor Warren said.

As part of a nationwide study, intermediate pupils from 30 schools across the country have been called in to help the experts with their work.

First, the students pick manuka branches before drying them out, grinding the leaves and producing an extract.

The finished product is then tested to see how well seeds grow in it.

"We sellotape the box up and we wait for them to grow, and see how well they grow compared with the water," one student explained.

The samples are then taken to a lab at the University of Otago, with results showing the humble manukau leaf could be a game-changer.

Elaine Burgess, a scientist at Plant and Food Research and co-leader of the research, says interest in manuka is growing as it's known to have some "herbicidal activity".

"What we're hoping could come out of it is there would be a natural herbicide put on the market without having any chemical side-effects," Ms Burgess said.

"The leaves drop on the ground, and then it stops the weeds from growing. It's like weed killer," another student said.

The research has led to discoveries which could see the value of manuka grow. Source: 1 NEWS



Police in stand-off with man barricaded in Huntly house

Police are currently involved in an ongoing stand-off in Huntly, which started around 2am this morning.

The eight-hour stand off began when police were called to a home on Harris St, where a man and woman had been fighting.

Upon arriving at the scene, police found the man had locked himself inside and was refusing to come out. 

At 9am, he was still refusing to come out of the home and police negotiators are currently on site, Waikato police Senior Sergeant Charles Burgess told Stuff.

"He's barricaded himself in the house and is threatening to harm himself," Senior Sergeant Burgess said.

He's not known to have access to any guns, Burgess said but does have access to knives and other items inside the home. 

"A police negotiation team are trying to speak to the man so we can bring an end to this event."

A section of the road has been cordoned off and detours are in place.

No one else is inside the home and no one has been injured.

Police emergency scene
Police emergency scene Source: 1 NEWS

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Truck rolls on Pahiatua Aokautere Road, causing road closure in Tararua

A truck has rolled in Tararua and is blocking lanes in both directions.

The truck rolled on Pahiatua Aokautere Road, also known as the Pahiatua Track, about 7.40am this morning.

The driver sustained moderate injuries. 

No other vehicles were involved.

Police are advising motorists to use an alternative route.

A road closure sign in front of a Police vehicle
A road closure sign in front of a Police vehicle. Source: 1 NEWS

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Man dies in overnight crash near Gisborne

A man has died following a crash involving a car and truck on State Highway 35 near Gisborne last night.

The driver of the car died at the scene.

Emergency services were called to the scene near Makarori Beach Road at around 9pm.

The road was closed overnight, for the Serious Crash Unit to investigate, but has since been reopened.

Police car generic.
Police car generic. Source: 1 NEWS


Kererū Count takes off with people urged to document every sighting over the next 10 days

The Great Kererū Count is taking flight again, with people being urged to document every member of the species they see over the next ten days.

The eight-year-long study is a joint venture between The Kererū Discovery Trust, Victoria University of Wellington, WWF-New Zealand and Wellington City Council.

It aims to help scientists understand how conservation activities like trapping, restoration, and aerial 1080 drops are helping Kererū numbers increase.

A spokesperson for the The Kererū Discovery Trust, Tony Stoddard, said last year New Zealanders counted more than 15,000 Kererū.

"Ideally what we'd like to see is that number stay stabilised or increase if possible, and this is the reason why we have to do the Great Kererū Count over such a large number of years...so we can actually get some robust data out of it," he said.

"What happens over probably the seven-year to eight-year period, Victoria University will go through that data and they'll analyse this for us and they'll be able to tell national trends on where Kererū have been populating areas or where their populations have decreased over time."

The Great Kererū Count is the only one of its kind in New Zealand, he said.

"It's the only centralised data collection monitoring the trends of the Kererū across New Zealand."

While the birds aren't classed as 'threatened' by the Department of Conservation, Kererū numbers have declined in the last 100 years.

However, unlike many of their counterparts, Kererū have adapted well to New Zealand's increasingly urban environment, said Mr Stoddard.

"Most often you'll see them on powerlines early in the morning or foraging on trees and even in your own backyard," he said.

"They're really easy to spot- they're really large pigeon-like birds, with a white singlet....and they've got white bloomers as well, like furry pants."

By Katie Doyle

rnz.co.nz

Kereru. Source: 1 NEWS