Wilding pine control efforts ramp up

A nationwide plan to tackle more than 800,000 hectares of wilding pine infestations over the next year will generate up to 550 new jobs and help prevent future wild fires, say Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor and Civil Defence Minister Peeni Henare.

“We’re ramping up our wilding control activity in areas where jobs are needed most,” Damien O’Connor said.

“Budget 2020 included $100 million for wilding pine control through the Jobs for Nature programme. Over $36 million of that funding will be spent in the next 12 months as part of our four-year programme. That extends our work from 19 to 58 sites across New Zealand.”

Minister O’Connor says this includes a range of long-term projects led by regional councils, and smaller-scale community partnerships.

“We’ll see significant work throughout most of New Zealand – in Northland, across the Central North Island, in Marlborough, Nelson/Tasman, Queenstown, Otago and Southland.”

“More than $17 million of work is allocated over 400,000 hectares of wilding infestations in Canterbury alone, including extensive infestations in Craigieburn and the Mackenzie.”

Civil Defence Minister Peeni Henare was in the Mackenzie District last week to survey the fire damage near Lake Pukaki, the spread of which has in part been attributed to wilding pines.

“I saw the devastation first-hand, and heard concerns from locals that the wilding pines are a pest, and play a dangerous part in helping to spread fires.

“This Government investment will help prevent fires like this in years to come,” said Peeni Henare.

Minister O’Connor says wilding pine control is part of the Government’s commitment to provide economic support for people, with a significant environmental benefit.

“This is not necessarily about putting people into new careers. It is about finding work for people now, while their sectors recover from Covid-19.”

“Wilding control is largely seasonal work, with some year-round operations. This will allow companies to employ new people – and to keep on existing staff.”

Minister O’Connor says New Zealanders can expect to see significant changes to the landscape as control activity increases.

“In many areas, like Queenstown and the Mackenzie basin, we’ll be removing longstanding infestations that have become a familiar part of the landscape. People are inclined to think any tree has some value. But the recent fires near Lake Pukaki, only a few years after the devastating fires in Flock Hill, have shown that wilding pines threaten the ecosystem, the economy – and the community.

“Bringing this work forward allows us to tackle these pest plants early, before they become a more significant problem”.

About wilding pines

Wilding pines 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.

Areas funded for 2020/21

Northland

$1.5 million has been allocated to ten projects in the Bay of Islands, Kerikeri, Taharoa Domain and Whangarei Heads. This work will generate an estimated 26 new jobs.

Central North Island

Over $3.2 million has been allocated for more than 170,000 hectares of wilding control throughout the Hawkes Bay, Waikato and Bay of Plenty. This work will generate an estimated 118 new jobs.

  • In the Waikato $1.3 million is allocated to nine projects including sites on the Coromandel, at Orakei Korako, Red Hills, Tutukau Forest, Alum lakes/Te Kiri O Hine Kai, and Tauhaura Maunga.
  • The Bay of Plenty will receive $957,000, including $637,000 for control work in Rangitaiki to protect nationally significant frost flats, and $320,000 for projects in Mt Tarawera and Te Urewera.
  • $691,250 is allocated for ongoing control work in the Kaimanawa ranges, protecting the Forest Park from further infestation, and $308,500 for work in the Tongariro National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Area.

Top of the South

Over $5.1 million to tackle 77,000 hectares of infestations, creating 63 new jobs.

  • Marlborough will receive $3,713,898 million. The majority of this will fund control work in the Molesworth Recreation Reserve, Waihopai, and the Marlborough Sounds, as well as a community partnership project in Te Hau/The Ned, in Blenheim.
  • In Nelson Tasman $1,325,250 will fund a DOC initiative in Mt Richmond, to make significant inroads controlling the seed source trees. $119,750 will fund a project to control wildings on Takaka Hill.

Canterbury

Over $17.2 million to fund projects covering over 400,000 hectares. This will create 171 new jobs

  • $16,845,102 million of this will fund major control work in the Mackenzie Basin, West Canterbury, and North Canterbury.
  • $360,620 will fund wilding projects on the Banks Peninsula.

Queenstown

$4.55 million for projects covering 56,000 hectares throughout the Remarkables, Shotover River, Wakatipu and Kawarau. This will create 49 jobs.

Otago

$1.04 million has been allocated for nearly 77,000 hectares of wilding control throughout Alexandra, Dunstan, Lammermoor, Northern Eyre, Rough Ridge and the Ida and Saint Mary’s ranges. This will create an estimated 36 jobs.

Southland

$3.25 million to support ongoing work in Mid Dome and Flagstaff to prevent wilding spread, including $200,000 for community projects on Bluff Hill/Motupohue. This will create an estimated 44 jobs.

About the National Wilding Conifer Control Programme

  • The National Wilding Conifer Control Programme began in 2016 and aims to contain or eradicate all wilding pine infestations by 2030. Prior to the programme wildings were invading the equivalent to 9 high country stations (90,000 hectares) a year.
  • Led by Biosecurity New Zealand, the programme is a successful collaboration between central and local government, landowners, farmers, forestry owners, iwi, researchers and community trusts.
  • Over the last four years this successful programme has covered over 1.5 million hectares throughout the country and protected more than 3 million hectares of New Zealand’s most vulnerable landscapes.
  • Operational plans for 2020/21 include 36 management units and 26 Community Partnership Projects. Combined, these projects cover more than 800,000 hectares of New Zealand’s most vulnerable landscape. This work is expected to generate nearly 550 new jobs over the next twelve months.

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