Thursday, July 18, 2024

1.4m hectares of wilding conifers tamed

1.4 million hectares of native and productive land have been protected from wilding conifers in the past two years, Biosecurity Minister, Damien O’Connor said today.

Speaking at the 2022 Wilding Pine Conference in Blenheim, Mr O’Connor said there was a visible difference across the country from the work of hundreds of people to get the upper hand on the highly invasive weeds.

“Analysis showed that left unchecked, wildings would cost the economy $5.3 billion. We made the right call to front-foot the issue, announcing $100 million of Jobs For Nature funding for a collective effort at the last conference in 2020,” the Minister said.

The National Wilding Conifer Control Programme has since treated more than two thirds of the known infestations around the country at least once, he said.

“From the dune lakes of the Te Aupōuri Peninsula in Northland, to the high country of Molesworth, and to the sacred Motupōhue Bluff Hill at Invercargill, the scenes are striking. Native tussock, bush and grazing land are recovering, and the outlook for biodiversity is brighter.”

The Programme has now completed two phases of control across 33% of the national known infestation, and a first phase over another 37%.

“That means the spread has been stopped or slowed in these areas, and efforts can shift to stopping re-infestation over the next few years – which is progressively less costly,” the Minister said.

A 2018 Cost Benefit Analysis report showed that if the Programme focussed control efforts on 1.8 million hectares of the most vulnerable landscapes, this could protect 7.25 million hectares from further infestation.

The Programme is on track to exceed this target, said Mr O’Connor.

“The control of wilding pines delivers huge benefits for New Zealand’s economy and rural communities and supports resilience to the impacts of climate change – through reducing impacts on productive land, hydro-power generation, and reducing the threats from intense wildfires.”

“The Programme carried out searching, pulling, sawing, spraying and felling. Added to that is the work of iwi and community volunteers and Government agencies, along with landowners and foresters managing their own land responsibly and being good neighbours.

“The final $35 million of Jobs For Nature funding will be spent over the next two years to continue the highest priority control work. It will progressively transition cleared land back to landowners where it is feasible for them to take over ongoing management to prevent reinvasion.

“With the results of the control work clear to see and the broad economic benefits understood, I hope to work with organisations to ensure funding is in place to keep up the pace of this essential work.

“The Programme, and many others under their own steam, are doing an excellent job, and we need to keep working together to maintain all the ground we have gained so far – the battle against this urgent weed threat is far from won,” Mr O’Connor said.

The Government has committed ongoing baseline funding of $10 million per year from the 2023-24 Financial Year.

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