Millions of hectares of productive and precious land have been cleared of New Zealand’s number one weed, wilding conifers, but more work is needed, Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor said.
Mr O’Connor was speaking at the New Zealand Wilding Conifer Group annual conference at Omarama today, before a helicopter tour over the Mackenzie Basin.
“Wilding conifers are a seriously established pest in New Zealand and out-compete native plants and wildlife for light and water, infest farmland and native ecosystems and spoil the unique character of iconic natural landscapes such as the high country,” Damien O’Connor said.
“Hardy, prolific and carried by wind, wilding conifers cover 5 per cent of our landscape and without intervention would have covered an estimated 20 per cent by 2035.
“The National Wilding Conifer Control Programme has now treated half a million hectares of land and searched a further million hectares for outliers, with 40,000 hectares of dense and moderate infestation removed – meaning control work has been completed on over a quarter of affected land.
“Priority areas will now be targeted across another 150,000 hectares in Canterbury, Otago, Southland, Marlborough and the Central North Island.
“We know the cost of control operations increases if wildings are left to spread so early intervention is the best option. For example, treating light infestations can cost as little as $20 a hectare and dense infestations up to $2000 a hectare.
“Our success to date is due largely to collaboration. Everyone from central and local government through to landowners, farmers, iwi and community trusts have got stuck in together to control the spread of these invasive trees,” Damien O’Connor said.
To date, the Government has spent $12.4 million on wilding conifer control, with $5.8 million from other parties. By 2030 the programme aims to have contained or eradicated all wilding conifers.
The National Wilding Conifer Control Programme:
The programme is led by the Ministry for Primary Industries and is supported by the Department of Conservation, Land Information New Zealand, NZ Defence Force, NZ Transport Agency, local government, forestry and farming industries, iwi groups, landowners, researchers and community organisations.