Wilding conifer control efforts smash targets

Biosecurity

Hundreds of jobs, a boost for biodiversity, and more productive land are the result of joint efforts to tackle wilding conifers, Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor said today.

“The National Wilding Conifer Control Programme, made huge strides last year, tackling more than half of its four-year target for wilding conifer control work in 12 months” Damien O’Connor said.

“Control crews and community projects treated 817,000 hectares from Te Taitokerau Northland to Motupōhue Bluff and created more than 1,000 full or part-time jobs.

“This success shows that concerted and coordinated efforts are succeeding in bringing large-scale wilding conifer infestations under control.”

The Programme was allocated an extra $100 million over four years through Jobs for Nature.

“We’ve supercharged the control efforts, and that will bring important environmental, social and economic outcomes, including protecting Māori sites and areas of significance.

“Around $40m was spent on control last year, and that’s well worth it. Wilding conifers cost New Zealand around $100 million every year in lost productivity, lost water for irrigation and hydro-electricity generation, and the costs of fire prevention and control.”

“A dollar spent today to bring this problem under control saves massive future cost, due to the seeding potential of these weeds. You only have to look in places like the Clarence Valley to see the nature of the issue.

“Preventing the spread of wildings is one of the most important actions we can take to preserve the habitats of some of our unique and vulnerable species, including the Kaki/black stilt, native lizards, insects and plants.”

The Programme is led by Biosecurity New Zealand, in partnership with the Department of Conservation, Toitū Te Whenua Land Information New Zealand, the New Zealand Defence Force, working with regional and local government, local community, Iwi and Hapū groups, researchers, industry and private landowners.

“Central to the success of control efforts is coordination of resources and a collaborative model.”

The programme also recently committed $2m to 12 Community Partnership Projects for work over the next two years. The projects will protect biodiversity and several wāhi tapu sites (such as burial grounds) across the country, and support ongoing training and employment opportunities for local kaimahi (workers).  There are now 30 Community Partnership Projects underway.

“We will invest $32.5 million through the Programme this year (2021-22) to continue the progress being made and kick off further control activity. This includes extending work in the far North of Te Taitokerau Northland, Hauraki Coromandel, South Marlborough, and more of the Mackenzie Basin.”

“Wilding conifers spread rapidly, suffocate our native flora and fauna, make land unproductive, and smother unique landscapes. We must act together to stop their spread,” Damien O’Connor said.

About wilding conifers

Wilding conifers overwhelm our native landscapes, killing native plants and forcing out native animals. Unlike commercial forests, wilding pines are weeds. They are self-seeded, spread aggressively and not intentionally planted.  Once they get established, wilding pines spread quickly.  Without national intervention wilding pines will spread to 7.5 million hectares of vulnerable land within 30 years.

The cost of unchecked wilding pine spread would reach $4.6 billion over 50 years.  We would lose biodiversity, including many of New Zealand’s most sensitive landscapes and water catchments.