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



Two weeks free dental care for Wairoa sees town 'inundated' with those struggling, get a checkup

A Hawke's Bay iwi's annual initiative to raise awareness of oral health is experiencing unprecedented demand.

The initiative sees free dental care provided for two weeks in Wairoa to try and help those struggling in the community and improve the country's poor dental care record.

"It's a good cost saver for my family otherwise it's quite dear in Wairoa to go to the dentist for all of us," local resident Bruce Te Kaihaka said.

A state of the art mobile clinic manned by volunteers from Lumino The Dentists visits the low income district once a year.

"We are totally oversubscribed. I think over 100 people are already booked for this week we need to keep it quiet that we are coming or we are inundated," Tony Dey of Lumino Dentists told 1 NEWS.

Ministry of Health figures show only 54 per cent of Kiwis visit the dentist when they think it's urgent, citing cost as the main barrier.

"We see stuff that we would call it late presentation problems that have been around awhile that if dental care was more easily accessible we may not have got to that point," Mr Dey said.

Dental care is only free nationwide for those under the age of 18 and the iwi behind the programme, Ngati Pahauwera, would like to see it extended to include the elderly and solo parents.

"There needs to be some kind of subsidy for certain categories of people," chairperson of Ngati Pahauwera Toro Waaka said.

For now they're working to extend the annual programme to the wider Hawke's Bay, to keep smiles bright across the region.

Cash-strapped residents of the Hawke's Bay town are keen to take up the volunteer dentists' services. Source: 1 NEWS

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Yellow Pages called 'blatant paper-waste' as users urged to opt out with deadline looming

There are calls for households to "opt out" of receiving their Yellow Pages book this year, amidst concerns the telephone directory is old fashioned.

Hundreds have taken to Facebook arguing the directory isn't environmentally friendly and people can easily look up numbers and addresses online.

The deadline for Aucklanders to opt out of the Yellow Book is tomorrow, with delivery of this year's edition set to start in Auckland on March 16.

So far more than 14,000 Auckland households have decided not to receive the Yellow Book. 

Among those who've encouraged the idea of opting out of the book is Green Party MP Chloe Swarbrick.

"Internet savvy Facebook folks - if you end up recycling your Yellow Pages each year because you know your way around the WWW, why not opt out of wasting the paper in the first place? It takes two seconds, but get onto it asap," she posted.

Businesses have also joined the calls, including Nature Body which wrote: "We are all about to get our annual pile of unwanted, antiquated, blatant paper-waste (the yellow pages). Before you throw it straight in the recycling bin... why not permanently opt out from getting one delivered in the first place!"

Households have had the option to opt out of receiving the Yellow pages since 2015.

Yellow Pages Source: istock.com