Wakatipu partnership to target wilding pines

  • Nick Smith

A partnership between DOC, the Queenstown Lakes District Council, LINZ and the local community aims to clear thousands of hectares of wilding pines in the Wakatipu Basin over the next five years, Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith says.

“Wilding pines are a significant risk to the natural ecology of the Wakatipu Basin. This partnership is about stepping up the efforts to control these tree weeds and protect the landscapes that make Queenstown such an iconic visitor destination,” Dr Smith told a meeting of the Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group (WCG) in Queenstown this evening.

“This project illustrates the benefits of DOC’s new focus on partnering with others to deliver conservation gains. These tree weeds are as much of a problem on private and council land as they are on public conservation land. It makes sense that we have a co-ordinated effort to control their spread, maximise the use of new technology, and work together to roll back the infestation,” he says.

“A real breakthrough has been made with new methods of aerial control of wilding pines. The traditional means of control by chainsaw costs up to $4,000 per hectare and takes two days. The recently proven aerial spraying techniques have reduced the cost to $650 per hectare and can be completed in nine minutes. I commend the work of local helicopter operators, in partnership with DOC, who have developed, refined and proven this new method.”

The WCG is a not-for-profit community organisation made up of DOC, Queenstown Lakes District Council, Land Information New Zealand, and local farmers, businesses and members of the community. It was established in 2009 to fight against the approximately 80,000 hectares of public and private land in Wakatipu infested with wilding pines.

“The Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group has made good progress in its work on Queenstown Hill, Skippers and the Roaring Meg. DOC will carry out all operational work to help the group deliver on its $5 million, five year plan,” Dr Smith says.

“The spread of wilding pines is a long-standing problem where we have been losing the battle for decades. This partnership, combined with new resources and tools, give us confidence that we can turn the tide and reclaim thousands of hectares of the Wakatipu’s natural heritage.”