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Published: 2000-11-24 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is declaring war on the Region’s weeds with a streamlined freephone to help people get information on how to control pests in their backyard.

The 0800 4WEEDS phone line is now underway throughout the Region. Wherever people live in the Waikato – from Taupo to the Coromandel – they can call the same phone number and be connected to their local Plant Pest Officer for direct assistance with their weed problems.

The electronic system notes where the call is made from to link with the right person, cutting out delays in calling Environment Waikato’s offices and having information passed on to the right person. Local Plant Pest Officers have a thorough knowledge of their areas and can provide advice and assistance over the phone, or visit the property in person to help dispose of the pests.

The Council’s Biosecurity programme gets more than 1400 calls a year from people concerned about plant pests on their own or their neighbour’s property and wanting advice about how to deal with them. Often they need help in identifying what the plant is, or what methods can be used to dispose of it.

Biosecurity officer Phillip Brown said at this time of year many calls are about privet, with Chinese privet flowering and causing problems for people with respiratory illness and asthma. Ragwort is also a problem, especially on farms.

There’s no charge for a Plant Pest Officer to come and have a look at the problem and provide advice on how to dispose of pests.

“In a lot of cases the officers will be very interested if people have discovered a weed they don’t recognise in their garden or anywhere else. Raising awareness of plant pests should help us control the number of pests appearing in the Region and help people understand what they can do to dispose of weeds.”

The free number is 0800 493 337. People are advised to use a land line - if callers are using a cell phone the system will not be able to divert the number to a local Plant Pest Officer and the call will be handled by the Hamilton office.