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

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Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, dies aged 65 after fight with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma

Paul Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with his childhood friend Bill Gates, has died. He was 65.

Allen's company Vulcan Inc. said in a statement that he died Monday. Earlier this month Allen said the cancer he was treated for in 2009, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, had returned.

Allen, who was an avid sports fan, owned the Portland Trail Blazers and the Seattle Seahawks

Allen and Gates founded Microsoft Corp. in 1975. Microsoft's big break came in 1980, when IBM Corp. decided to move into personal computers. IBM asked Microsoft to provide the operating system.

The decision thrust Microsoft onto the throne of technology and the two Seattle-natives became billionaires. Both later dedicated themselves to philanthropy.

Over the course several decades, Allen gave more than $2 billion to a wide range of interests, including ocean health, homelessness and advancing scientific research.

FILE - In this Oct. 14, 2012 file photo, Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen appears on the field prior to an NFL football game against the New England Patriots in Seattle. Allen, billionaire owner of the Trail Blazers and the Seattle Seahawks and Microsoft co-founder, died Monday, Oct. 15, 2018 at age 65. Earlier this month Allen said the cancer he was treated for in 2009, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, had returned.   (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Allen was an avid sports fan and owned an NFL team and an NBA franchise. Source: Associated Press


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Police probe racist emails sent to Māori academic

A Māori language lecturer at Victoria University has complained to police after receiving a string of racist emails.

Vini Olsen-Reeder publicly threw his support behind Wellington City Council's bid to make Te Reo Māori more visible around the city in May.

But within days he started receiving angry emails from complete strangers.

One sender told him Te Reo Māori was an ugly language used by tribal, tattooed, former cannibals and not needed or wanted by anglophones.

Two emails have been sent to his account since then from multiple senders - one of whom used a fake identity.

The emails were also sent to Otago University and to colleagues of Mr Olsen-Reeder at Victoria.

Mr Olsen-Reeder was told by colleagues to ignore them, but after the third email he decided to call the police.

They have since opened a case file for him, where his emails will be monitored. Police will only act on them under the Harmful Digital Communications Act if they are found to pose a direct threat.

"A lot of my colleagues, as academics, we are open to critique. But people tend to think that means they get to be horrible human beings and say whatever they like and that they can be terrifically racist and mean.

"My worry is that, because this is through email, my colleagues will think there's nothing they can do. Well that's actually not true. I want everyone to know that there are avenues you can pursue so emails like this can be monitored."

Twenty-four people have been imprisoned under the Act since its inception in 2015 and others have been charged with home detention or community service.

However, Internet Safety Detective, Damian Rapira, said emails must reach a certain threshold before a criminal charge can be laid.

"We have to take into account things like, Is there a realistic prospect of that threat being carried out? Is there a realistic opportunity for that threat? Is it building? Is there a previous domestic dispute between the two people involved?

"There's so many variables in this particular space."

According to online safety agency, Netsafe, one in 10 adult New Zealanders receive at least one harmful digital communication each year.

Chief executive Martin Cocker said cyber bullies may think they're anonymous but they're not.

"There is in New Zealand an un-masking law. There's the ability to request that someone be identified.

"People use anonymity but they forget that they are not typically anonymous to the platform that they are sending the emails from."

But for Mr Olsen-Reeder speaking out about the emails wasn't just about catching the culprits.

He said people should know the difference between genuine disagreement and unacceptable behaviour.

"Māori are always pitched as politicising issues, so we're always the ones presented as angry and as "the fighters". But we do a lot of disagreeing because there are lots of things happening that genuinely need disagreement.

"One of the things that makes me really sad and angry is that there are other people in society who feel free to be as politically-charged and angry as they like in spaces that are actually just totally inappropriate and unreasonable."

Mr Olsen-Reeder has not replied to any of the emails, and does not intend to.

- By Te Aniwa Hurihanganui
rnz.co.nz

Māori language lecturer Vini Olsen-Reeder with some of the emails he has been sent. Source: RNZ / Te Aniwa Hurihanganui


MP Jami-Lee Ross to make official police complaint against National leader Simon Bridges, will resign from Parliament

National's MP for Botany, Jami-Lee Ross, will be laying an official police complaint against National Party leader Simon Bridges tomorrow, in which he'll allege electoral fraud.

Jami-Lee Ross.
Jami-Lee Ross. Source: 1 NEWS

Mr Ross also told media this morning he would resign as a member of Parliament on Friday, sparking a by-election for the Botany seat.

Mr Ross said he would run as an independent.

Mr Ross made a number of claims about the National Party leader in relation to donations. Mr Bridges has denied any wrongdoing. Source: 1 NEWS

Today he followed up on allegations of unlawful activity from Simon Bridges over electoral donations. 

"Simon Bridges knows exactly what Cathedral Club is. It is a name used to hide a donation from a close friend of his. He claims it was a clerical error, I claim BS on that," Mr Ross said.

"I believe Simon Bridges is a corrupt politician."

He later added: "On Monday 14th of May this year, I attended a dinner with Simon Bridges at the home of a wealthy Chinese businessman.

"The following week ...Simon called me in the evening he'd been at a fundraiser with Paul Goldsmith.

"He had been offered a donation $100,000 donation from the same wealthy businessman."

Mr Ross alleged Mr Bridges did not want the donation to be public, and asked Mr Ross to ensure it.

"I duly carried out Simon Bridges' wish."

He said it was split into smaller donations.

Mr Ross then said he had a recorded conversation with Mr Bridges about the alleged events.

Mr Bridges' office has previously directed media questions about the Cathedral Club to the party.

A spokesperson told Radio NZ yesterday that the donation error was down to the local Tauranga electoral committee and said the Electoral Commission was contacted to seek advice. The return was then amended and re-submitted.

Mr Ross' remarks this morning came a day after Bridges outed him as the likely leaker of his expenses, following the completion of a PWC report into the leaking.

"I'm standing up for what I believe in. New Zealand deserves better from the National Party," Mr Ross said today.

"I’m now the subject of a smear campaign.

"Simon is a flawed individual without a moral compass."

After taking sick leave earlier this month, Mr Ross said today he had had a mental breakdown but was now in good health.

He claimed the PWC report was inaccurate, and the only time he messaged the journalist who released the National Party expenses was when they texted him to ask how he was.

Mr Bridges yesterday denied all of Mr Ross' accusations and said: "He would say those things, given the situation."