Friday, January 28, 2022

Half-million dollar hit on wilding conifers

A $467,000 investment by the National Wilding Conifer Control Programme, through Biosecurity New Zealand (BNZ) will go toward the removal of wilding pines from Central North Island conservation areas that were previously over-run by the pest trees.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) has been targeting wilding pines for many decades alongside Horizons Regional Council and volunteer groups, including the Wanganui and Hut Valley Tramping clubs.

These years of hard work have meant the unique features of the landscape have not been completely blanketed by wilding pines, DOC said in a statement.

However, Erua Conservation Area, Tongariro Conservation Area, Rangataua, and Tongariro National Park still have many wilding pines that need to be removed.

Danial van der Lubbe, site project manager for DOC Tongariro, said the work is being undertaken by local contractors and DOC staff, with potential for other existing ‘Jobs for Nature’ projects to also be involved.

“If left unchecked, wilding pines would infest the sensitive landscape of the Tongariro region and crowd out the fragile plant life in the area,” he said.

“National Programme funding through MPI has allowed us to work in areas that previously we were not able to work on. It’s great to see both Horizons and DOC, with the endorsement of the iwi, working together to achieve important conservation outcomes.

“Working together we can prevent the spread of wilding pines and knock these invasive weeds off our maunga.”

One of the first jobs will be to aerially-survey conservation areas to locate wilding conifers for follow up control activities. Control will then be either ground based or by aerial spraying.

Malinda Matthewson from Horizons Regional Council is the lead for the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) Management unit ‘Tongariro’ which includes both conservation and private land.

“Controlling wilding pines is achievable, but we still need to work consistently to manage them,” Ms Matthewson said.

“Now that we have the National Programme this has really helped, as we have a better handle on where the trees are, and where the work needs to be done on a national scale.

“The relationships between DOC, Horizons and public groups have been very important in supporting the wilding pines work.

“This work could not be done without public support as well, and people now realise the importance of protecting our iconic landscapes.” 

Wilding conifers or wilding pines are introduced trees that are spreading across the landscape through natural regeneration. They already cover more than 1.8 million hectares of New Zealand and, prior to the National Programme, were spreading at an estimated 90,000 hectares a year.

The National Wilding Conifer Control Programme was set up in 2016, taking a coordinated, collaborative approach to preventing the spread of wilding conifers.

Without the large-scale control undertaken by the Programme, 20% of New Zealand would be impacted by wilding pines within 20 years, resulting in the loss of native species and natural landscapes.

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