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Faster Aerial Spray Operation Planned

May 6 2002

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry will use a fixed wing plane and a helicopter for future aerial sprays in the fight against the painted apple moth in west Auckland.

Painted apple moth programme co-ordinator Don Hammond says a small, specialist plane will be used which should be able to complete the targeted zone in considerably less time it takes a helicopter on its own.

“This will be good news for residents,” he says, “most people want it over and done with in the shortest possible time.”

The Civil Aviation Authority has approved the combined operation and MAF says it will have a suitable aircraft ready to join the helicopter for the sixth aerial spray scheduled for Tuesday 21 May – weather permitting.

The plane would fly at the same height as the helicopter and the same wind restrictions to limit spray drift – no flying over 12 kph – would apply.

Mr Hammond says there’s two reasons for the change in approach.

“Over the past few months we’ve expanded the targeted aerial zone. The original 300 hectare area was fine for a helicopter but we are now tackling an area of 600 hectares. A small plane for the large residential blocks and a helicopter for the tricky parts will be more efficient.”

“A helicopter was, and still is, the right choice for targeted areas with difficult terrain like deep gullies, seaward margins and around powerlines. We’ll still use it in those areas.

“Auckland’s changeable weather is the second problem. It’s proved to be more difficult than we thought to get several successive rain-free, windless days. Some of our earlier operations were delayed over a week.

“The weather won’t change but if we can complete the operation in fewer hours it gives us more flexibility. There’s a good chance we’ll complete the whole zone in one day – even one morning if the weather is kind.”

MAF’s programme against the painted apple moth is having an impact. Over the last three months, totals from the male moth trap catches have shown a significant and constant drop in the male moth count - down from a peak of almost 900 moths before aerial spraying to less than 200 in recent weeks. Last week's catch was just 73 moths.

Ends

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