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Sensor tech boosts Auckland’s environment preservation

Innovate Auckland, an Auckland Council collective, is trialling a new tool to protect the forests and parks from kauri dieback.

Kauri is a disease caused by a microscopic fungus-like organism, called Phytophthora agathidicida (PA). It kills trees of all ages.

It lives in the soil and infects kauri roots, damaging the tissues that carry nutrients and water within the tree, effectively starving it to death.

The disease is easily spread through soil movements such as when soil is carried on dirty footwear, animals, equipment and vehicles.

According to a recent press release, the new sensor monitors the number of visitors to open tracks and looks into the amount of trigene available at cleaning stations.

Trigene is the fluid used for decontaminating shoes and trekking gear,

The team had been working closely with park rangers at Arataki Regional Park to test out the new sensor technology.

The sensors are tasked to collect data. The data will then be sent off to the ranger team at regular intervals for analysis.

The Western Principal Ranger is pleased with the motivation shown by Innovate Auckland to collaborate on this urgent issue.

Uses and benefits

The sensor itself is battery-operated and uses two detectors to identify whether a person is entering or leaving a track.

In addition, it also gives rangers updates on the amount of trigene left in the tanks at disinfection stations.

This avoids the risk of empty tanks that might allow walkers to accidentally spread dieback throughout the forest.

The sensor should help to create a more efficient system and could be instrumental in the prevention of the further spread of dieback.

Data provided in the first round of testing from the Lower Loop Track at Arataki Regional Park reveals high visitor numbers.

As of 17 June 2019, 1285 visitors were counted over a 31-day period.

The project is partially funded by the ICT Research budget. Meanwhile, NZ$ 5000 of funding from the Natural Environment Targeted Rate was provided by Auckland Council.

The initiative is working to secure further funding.

Technology does more with less

Auckland Council’s Head of Innovation highlighted that technology-based solutions are an increasingly important part of the Council’s efforts to preserve Auckland’s environment.

Technology provides the opportunity to actually do more with less. Furthermore, data helps the Council make better decisions in order to get better outcomes.

The new sensors provide data that allows the Council to be better informed, to monitor better, and to make sure that the interventions being taken to combat kauri dieback are the right ones.

He added that technology has helped them become more efficient by automating a physical and time-consuming activity.

The potential of the new technology is deemed to be exciting and will make the future sustainability initiatives even easier.

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