Starting from this January people driving through the Kawarau Gorge will see one of Otago’s largest ever campaigns to eradicate wilding pines.
Aerial of wilding pine problem at Roaring Meg
The effort will focus on over 1,500 hectares surrounding the Roaring Meg area. The aim is to protect both pastoral and conservation land from the wilding pine threat. If left unmanaged, the wilding pines will continue their rapid spread, suppressing the existing vegetation and causing irreparable damage to the region’s farming and tourism economies.
The initiative is spearheaded by the Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group (WCG), and builds on recent successes at other locations such as Queenstown Hill, Bowen Peak and Skippers Canyon.
Wilding pine spraying Queenstown Hill
DOC Wakatipu Manager Greg Lind says, “Through the direction of the Wilding Control Group, the Roaring Meg eradication programme is an excellent example of different parties working together in partnership for conservation.”
“This programme is being funded by the WCG and a wide range of partners. These include the Department of Conservation, Queenstown Lakes District Council, Central Otago District Council, the New Zealand Transport Agency, Land Information New Zealand, Pioneer Generation and the Waitiri, Lowburn and Mt Difficulty Stations. The WCG is able to complete this eradication programme through funding received from the Central Lakes Trust and NZ Lottery Grants Board (Environment and Heritage)".
Mr Lind adds “We all want to see the wilding pines gone so we can stop their ongoing threat. We’ve seen what’s happened down the road at Mid-Dome, where the spread of wildings affected 80,000 hectares.”
Wilding pine spraying Skippers
The CEO of the WCG, Briana Pringle, says, “The wilding trees are now spreading all over the back country. Seed spread is rapid creating a widespread problem that has developed over the last twenty years.
“The wilding pines are threatening the land we value. Left uncontrolled wildings will decimate both pastoral land and conservation areas. The wilding pines over-run farmland and native vegetation, which in turn forces out native birds, lizards and insects. Otago’s tussock covered high country scenery could well be lost to wilding forests.”
Ms Pringle continues, “The eradication programme is no easy task. The operations will be led by expert staff from the Department of Conservation and Queenstown Lakes District Council. They will need to spray, chainsaw and chop their way through the forest and surrounding land. Both ground and aerial tactics are required to ensure every wilding pine is killed while protecting nearby waterways and native vegetation. Spray techniques will adopt strict controls to minimise accidental damage to native species.
“Once the attack on the wildings is completed, the public can expect to see the gradual demise of the trees over a few years. The wildings will lose their foliage, slowly collapse and then naturally decompose. Where economically viable, logs will be harvested for production forestry. In some areas we will be planting natives to assist re-growth and to control erosion. Over time native shrubs and tussocks will re-claim their rightful place across the countryside.”