The Queensland government has announced it is deploying Ergon Energy internet-connected meters in the state's northern region as a "significant" step towards helping local farmers minimise the spread of Panama disease, a fungus that affects the tissues of the banana plant. Up to 600 meters will be installed in the Tully and Innisfail areas, where a majority of Australia's bananas are produced. Due to Panama TR4 biosecurity concerns and strict quarantine measures, Ergon -- a subsidiary of government-owned power company Energy Queensland Limited -- made the decision to stop all entry of their contract meter readers onto farms and install digital meters that could be read remotely, Energy Minister Mark Bailey has said. "Digital meters will avoid the need for meter readers to enter properties and therefore prevent the spread of the disease," the minister said in a statement. There will be no cost to banana farmers for switching to digital meters; however, all affected farmers will be required to accommodate the switchover in the upcoming months.
Following the devastating Black Summer bushfires, New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife has been using drones to assist with post-fire recovery. Speaking as part of the digital DroneDeploy Conference this week, NSW National Parks and Wildlife chief remote pilot Gareth Pickford explained that using drones to assist various stakeholders within the NSW government to assess the damage caused by bushfires last summer is a cost-effective and efficient way to collect data. "The types of data that we actually were planning on getting out in the field was around fire severity areas that were affected by fires, not just in local parks that are open to tourism, but also wilderness areas, which are natural habitats to certain species that may have been affected by fire," he said. "We wanted to understand how much they were going to be affected by the fire, and its post-effects." Some of the specific activities that the drones were used for included ecology assessments, which are live snapshots and maps of different terrains across the state; multispectral mapping to examine the types of vegetation that either survived or were destroyed; archeological analysis of historical sites; and evening thermal scanning to assess the animal population in certain areas, particularly in remaining vegetation patches.
A teenager in New South Wales recently died after a fatal shark bite, adding to four other unprovoked shark-related deaths this year. These tragic events send shockwaves through the community and re-ignite our fear of sharks. They also fuel the debate around the best way to keep people safe in the water while minimising impacts on marine wildlife. This was the aim of a five-year trial of shark-mitigation technology--the Shark Management Strategy – which finished recently. The NSW government created this initiative in response to an unprecedented spike in shark bites in 2015, particularly on the north coast of NSW.
The New South Wales government has extended its use of drones to speed up the state's recovery from last month's devastating floods. According to the state government, it has been using drones to take aerial imagery of affected areas that remain damaged or are still inaccessible by road. Some of the imagery include details of where soil and debris need to be removed. "Our drones have allowed us to get a flying start on understanding exactly what damage has been done so our engineers can work out what is required to fix it -- from how many tonnes of rock and debris need to be removed to the data we need to build 3D modelling of the slopes affected. Best of all, they can take images from multiple angles without putting workers' safety at risk," Deputy Premier John Barilaro said.
South Australia may have gotten a head start with trials in 2015, but New South Wales (NSW) is also committing to a driverless car future. Automated cars without drivers could be on NSW roads within five years, the state's minister for transport, Andrew Constance, predicted at a summit on the future of transport in Sydney Monday. "We're going to have driverless cars on our streets, in our suburbs," he told reporters. In his opinion, the South Australian government may have "jumped the gun a little bit" with its initial road tests last year. To support its own rollout of driverless cars, the NSW State Government announced the creation of a Smart Innovation Centre in western Sydney.