Thousands expected at annual Burt Munro rally in Southland this weekend

The Burt Munro challenge takes place in Southland this weekend and thousands are expected to attend the event which commemorates the legendary motorbike racer. 

"A bit over 200 people for the rally and then in addition to that there's about 600 competitors" says Rally Chairman, Wayne Affleck. 

Even though Munro died 40 years ago the event still draws in leather-clad petrol heads from all over the world every year.

Bill Swallows who came all the way from Yorkshire, England says "I remember the guy when I was younger and actually doing it, I mean actually doing it. He's a legend."

The event will be in it's 12th year and held in February instead of November to make sure the conditions are perfect to ride along the famous Oreti Beach where Burt rode his Indian motorcycle for the first time. 

The event runs until Sunday and police are expecting a big number of visitors. 

Four decades after his death the record-breaking Kiwi is still inspiring riders from around the world. Source: 1 NEWS


National to pay more attention to its backbenchers' concerns after rumours of discontent

The National Party has signalled it'll take more notice of the concerns of its backbench MPs as the caucus unites to try to get back into power at the next election.

National MPs have been on a two-day retreat in Tauranga, carrying out a post mortem on last year's election and working out how to win back power in 2020.

The MPs are all on message in support of their leader Bill English and deputy leader Paula Bennett after rumours of discontent last week.

"This is a caucus who understands that if they want to be competitive in 2020 then they need to show they can manage themselves," Mr English said.

Ms Bennett said: "I feel like I've got a role to play. I feel like I do it well and I feel like I've got the support of my caucus."

But that unity comes at a price - paying more attention to the concerns of backbench MPs.

"This is a great opportunity for everyone, including our newest MPs, to stand up and say what they think too," said Judith Collins, National MP.

Mr English said in opposition there's no hierarchy, "there's the leader and deputy leader and then there's all the MPs".

MPs have been on a two-day caucus retreat in Tauranga. Source: 1 NEWS


Canterbury dogs trained to sniff out Chilean needle grass in world first

In a world first, two Canterbury dogs have been trained to sniff out Chilean needle grass, a plant that threatens livestock and crops.

With a great sense of smell at just three years old, they are the only dogs in the world who can detect the grass in a field of other grasses.

"It's just phenomenal, their sense of smell ... that's why we use them because for humans it's really hard to find," says plant scientist Fiona Thompson.

New Zealand saw a shocking infestation of the weed in Marlborough and it could be spread to 15 million acres if it isn't checked.

"Chilean needle grass is another pest that's slowly invading Canterbury," says Lawrence Smith from Environment Canterbury.

Chilean needle grass can affect pasture and the sharp seeds can cause blindness, deafness and can travel on sheep wool. 

The plant pest threatens both stock and crops. Source: 1 NEWS