Weed-killing drone a new weapon against agriculture's $1.7 billion pests

Weeds are costing New Zealand's agriculture industry hundreds of millions of dollars, but farmers are now looking to the sky for relief.

Representatives from the farming sector, local councils and volunteers in Nelson are considering whether to use drone technology to rid the region of invasive weeds.

Landowner Jan Fryer says they've been fighting a never ending battle in their backyard.

"The Old man's Beard, Honeysuckle, Blackberry is just going berserk in the river," Mrs Fryer said.

But now she's being offered a state-of-the-art weapon to tackle them, using a remote-control drone armed with 16 litres of weed killer.

The unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are increasingly being used in New Zealand to spray in hard to reach places.

A recent AgResearch study found that weeds are costing the agricultural industry nearly $1.7 billion a year.  But a number of projects are currently underway, including developing a drone that can zap weeds with a laser.

Yamaha UAV Operator, Cameron Baker, says his crew's last job was at Matakana Island for the local council where they're "spraying the only infestation of Australian tea tree up there".

"We get all the areas that kind of get left behind or the areas that are too big for guys to go in there and walk."

Mrs Fryer watched on as the drone sprayed the weeds in the Wakapuaka River in six minutes - a vast improvement on the last time she tried to remove them.

"It took me probably an hour on my hands and knees with secateurs.".

The group present are now weighing up whether to hire contractors for the job or lease the drone for themselves.

"So you know, 'I'll do it for a day, you do it for a day, you take it for a day, then it becomes much more cost effective," Mrs Fryer said.

Weeds cost the agriculture industry hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Source: 1 NEWS



New World's reusable container promotion backfires after microwave mishaps

A promotion by the New World supermarket chain intended to attract eco-conscious New Zealanders has somewhat backfired.

The New Zealand-based company has issued an apology to customers on its website after receiving reports that some of their reusable food storage "pods" were becoming "damaged" in the microwave.

"This is a serious issue and has our full attention," the company said. "Firstly, we would like to reassure customers that there is no food safety issue and we have been working with MPI and other experts on this."

New World launched the container promotion earlier this month, giving them away free to customers who spent a certain amount on groceries. The items, which come with a vacuum pump, have been promoted as a way to make food last longer - reducing food waste.

"New Zealand homes throw away 122,547 tonnes of food per year, all of which could have been eaten," the company pointed out. "This is enough food to feed the whole of Dunedin for two years!"

But now the narrative has changed, with New World promising it is "advising customers through as many channels as possible" that the pods shouldn't go in the microwave.

"We would like to reassure members, staff and customers that there is no food safety issue," the company said on its website. "We have verified this with independent industry experts."

The pods were safety tested prior to the promotion, but it wasn't until two customers brought the microwave issue to the company's attention that it was realised something had gone wrong.

New World said it has launched an investigation into how the error occurred.

New World's reusable food container promotion was intended to target food waste. Source: New World


Hamilton McDonald’s worker ordered to stop speaking te reo with customers

A teen employee at a Hamilton McDonald’s keen to celebrate Māori Language Week with customers had her enthusiasm dashed this week when a manager told her not to speak New Zealand's official language.

Janine Eru-Taueki, 19, was told it would be considered rude to address customers in a language other than English, she told Māori Television.

Some customers who don't speak te reo might think an employee is talking about them, a company representative told the station.

"This is the first time I've been told by anyone that I can't speak Māori," Ms Eru-Taueki said.

In 1976, the first fast food burger restaurant in NZ was opened in Porirua. Source: 1 NEWS

"I don't agree because Māori is an official language of this country. Some of the customers come up and ask if they can make their order in Māori. I was really sad the other night because I couldn't speak to them in Māori myself."

But McDonald’s officials said they are learning from the situation and will explore policies that might better support Māori Language Week in the future. The restaurant didn’t receive any customer complaints about Ms Eru-Taueki’s bilingual efforts, they confirmed.

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Charities pledge $700m to fight deforestation worldwide, by giving more power to indigenous groups

A coalition of charitable groups and the government of Norway pledged today to spend well over half a billion dollars over the next four years to prevent deforestation internationally and recognise indigenous peoples' rights to manage forests.

The charitable groups pledged NZ$704 million to help indigenous groups gain rights to the forests where they live and to help them protect their land. The government of Norway pledged another NZ$50 million to help prevent deforestation in Indonesia and Brazil.

The coalition of more than 15 organisations and Norway made the announcement ahead of an international climate change summit in San Francisco. It includes the Ford and the Rockefeller foundations.

"Evidence shows indigenous communities are the most effective stewards of the land they inhabit and in doing so, they are ensuring that the greenhouse gas levels do not do irreversible damage to people and the planet," said Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation.

The funds will support those working to protect, restore and expand forests, help communities make land use more sustainable and empower indigenous people by teaching them about their rights.

National, however, is accusing Shane Jones of flinging money around. Source: 1 NEWS

The endeavour is separate from a New Zealand programme in which the Government has allocated nearly $500 million to the goal of planting 1 billion trees. About $240 million of that was announced last month, when Forestry Minister Shane Jones explained that iwi, private land owners and non-government organisations will be able to apply for the money to cover planting costs.

Mr Jones estimated that the $240 million injection will result in 60 million new trees and the creation of 1000 jobs over the next three years.

In San Francisco today, Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said that to prevent deforestation, the rights of indigenous people need to be secured and governments need to protect those fighting for land and the environment.

About half of the forests in the world are managed by indigenous people but only 15 per cent of those lands are legally recognized as belonging to them, she said, adding that more than 200 land and environmental activists, many of them indigenous, were killed last year.

"If our rights as indigenous peoples are recognized, we can continue to protect these lands for generations to come," she said.

Scientists say forests already remove 30 per cent of carbon emissions added to the atmosphere each year but rampant deforestation driven by a growing demand for animal protein, soy and wood products is undermining trees and the soil's capacity to store carbon.

They say the time to achieve the most ambitious goal - limiting a rise in average global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100 - has almost passed and that preserving and expanding forests is critical to fighting climate change.

The party wants to move and shake things up when it comes to climate change. Source: 1 NEWS

Erazo Yaiguaje, an indigenous Siona man from South America, travelled from the Colombian Amazon to San Francisco to share his tribe's plight in getting the government to recognize their ancestral land and to publicize his people's fight against cattle ranchers and efforts to clear land mines left behind by a rebel group.

The ranchers, he said, started arriving in the Putumayo areas once occupied by rebels with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, who in 2016 laid down their guns after they and the Colombian government reached a peace deal.

Mr Yaiguaje said his tribe lives in 11,000 acres (4,450 hectares) but that the government has refused to recognize their land encompasses 128,000 acres (51,800 hectares).

"The pledge recognises the importance of indigenous peoples and how from the forest and the jungle, we're helping the world," Mr Yaiguaje said.

But he said he hopes the money gets to those it intends to help.

"These funds are usually given to the government and our communities see very little of it," he added.

They’re frustrated with what they say is a lack of Government action.
Source: 1 NEWS


Fluorescent whitebait unleashed near Nelson in native fish conservation effort

A school of brightly coloured whitebait are leading the way to help our native fish.

Dyed pink and orange, they've been sent swimming up a town culvert near Nelson to see if recent improvements are helping.

"They are really easy to spot in the culvert when they're bright pink or brown," said NIWA freshwater ecology technician Peter Williams.

Around 200 unmarked clear whitebait, 200 pink (Rhodamine B stained) whitebait, and 200 orange (Bismarck Brown stained) whitebait were released into the Reservoir Creek culvert in Richmond to battle upstream.

"Seventy-four per cent of New Zealand freshwater fish species are in decline and upstream barriers are stopping them from getting up to their habitat that they need to complete their life cycle," explained Mr Williams.

In April, the Tasman District Council stepped in to help, installing flexible weir baffles.

"Water goes from A to B very quickly in a natural culvert, that's what they're designed to do," said Fish and Wildlife Services' Tim Olley. "What we're looking to do is create resting pools in the culvert, low velocity areas for the fish to burst swim and rest, burst swim and rest, more or less like a stepladder."

The whitebait released have a 136-metre journey up the culvert while being monitored by NIWA, Tasman District Council and F&WS specialists over 48 hours. It's hoped the majority will make it out the other end.

NIWA and the Department of Conservation recently released national fish passage guidelines for keeping waterways swimmable. But freshwater ecologist Mike Joy says tougher rules are needed.

"A lot of these things (have) been put in and very, very little if any measurement of actually if they work or not," Mr Joy said.

"Without a doubt, the solution would be to not allow them to happen in the first place. Under the Freshwater Fisheries Act you're not allowed to impede the passage of native fish, so if you just said, 'No you couldn't do it', you wouldn't have to retrofit these things afterward."

The future of New Zealand’s native fish looks very bleak as scientists presented findings at a parliamentary select committee today. Source: 1 NEWS

Tasman District Council resource scientist Trevor James, who is also a member of the country's Fish Passage Advisory Group, agrees that "the best culvert is actually a bridge".

"So that's correct, but in the world of reality bridges are expensive - they have to be certified to take a lot of load all that sort of thing," he said.

He'd like to see all councils step up monitoring of fish passages after installation.

"Roading engineers contract out every year, every second year to monitor the culverts from an engineering point of view," he explained. "It would only be a small add-on to actually assess for fish passage."

NIWA says the guidelines have been well received by councils so far and the monitoring at the Reservoir Creek culvert will help other councils find cost-effective solutions for the future.

They’ve been seen swimming up a town culvert near Nelson to see if conservation efforts are working Source: 1 NEWS