Good afternoon everyone. Thank you for coming to the launch of the Wilding Conifer Information System.
I’d like to acknowledge my colleague, the Minister of Conservation, Maggie Barry, who is here today and will be speaking shortly.
I’m honoured to be announcing the official launch of this new system, but first, thank you to the staff at Land Information New Zealand, Dave Mole and his team, for the hard work that has gone into this project.
And a special thank you to everyone on the ground, behind the scenes and out in the community, who are out there every day making a difference to protect our landscapes.
As you saw in the demonstration, this tool will be vital in the fight against wildings far into the future, because this is not a short-term campaign.
Wildings have been a blight on our landscape for decades. Like many of the weeds and pests that we have to deal with in New Zealand, there is a lot of time, effort, and money spent on control.
Unfortunately, a lot of Kiwis aren’t aware of the dire situation we’re facing in some parts of the country. Many of them don’t know what a wilding is, and no doubt there are many people who like them – look at the magnificent view we have here today.
But people do need to understand the effect that the unintended spread of these trees has on our native landscape.
It’s estimated that wildings affect more than 2 million hectares of New Zealand land. And they are spreading, at a rate of about five per cent a year – infesting tens of thousands of hectares.
When not controlled, this silent pest invades our landscapes, smothers our native flora, evicts our native animals, sucks water out of our catchments, and has a huge impact on our economy.
The spread can cost us hugely. Every year millions of dollars are spent on this problem. But management is also complex – there are a range of communities, landowners, authorities and operators affected.
That’s why it’s important to act now – and we have.
We have a National Strategy. We have a National Programme for wilding conifer management.
We have key parties coming together, collaborating, to combat the negative impacts of these trees before it is too late.
We have continued campaigns to promote awareness and best practice.
We have connections with landowners and communities to ensure high-risk wildings don’t spread to create new infestations.
And now we have a system to map and monitor wilding conifer spread and report on control efforts. It will play an integral part in measuring the success of the National Programme.
What’s more, the Programme has added five more operations, or “management units”, to be allocated funding this financial year.
This will see 371,000 hectares of land prioritised for control.
By tackling these areas sooner we’ll save more money over the lifetime of the Programme, and we can engage more people sooner to build support for our work.
We’ll be able to keep the momentum that the Programme needs.
Collaboration is essential for the success of the Programme.
Government agencies, councils, landowners, trusts and communities all have a contribution to make in the effective management of this pest tree.
A lot of hard work is carried out through landowners and trusts.
So it’s fantastic to have everyone on the same page, working together towards the same overall goal.
We all have strengths we bring to the table.
Land Information New Zealand is a key partner in the National Programme, using its strengths to build an evidence base for this work.
In developing the system, LINZ has leveraged its expertise in mapping, operational control on Crown land and relationships across many different sectors, to lead the information project.
The tool will underpin the National Programme in many ways.
It will tell us how well we are doing over time, and what could be done better.
Authorities will be able to look at control costs and effectiveness, and analyse data to inform decision-making – on both national and regional levels.
The system will have a huge impact on securing future funding to control infestations. And the more we can control infestations, the less money we have to spend on this problem down the line.
The ultimate value of this system is that we’ll have the evidence to make the right decisions to protect our land.
And, as you’ve seen, we’re harnessing the power of technology to help us achieve our work.
The Government is very keen to support hi-tech solutions to resolve some of our biosecurity problems.
By using geospatial tools developed in New Zealand, LINZ - along with its technology partners, Eagle Technology and Esri - has been able to create a powerful and innovative solution.
This is a big step forward: it takes us from paper-based to digital workflows and allows us to be more efficient, make better decisions, and be more accountable.
The smart analytics inside the solution allows agencies to understand how and where money is being spent and how this is making a difference to eradicate wilding conifers nationally.
Open data is important to the Government and the data and insights being captured through the use of this solution will be open to all. Open data is an area where LINZ continues to be a strong champion.
LINZ will continue to develop the Wilding Conifer Information System. It will work very closely with our stakeholders, including many of you in this room today. And LINZ is committed to maintaining this system too, so it will really set the foundation for our national and regional strategies for wilding control.
The purpose of any new system or tool is to provide a benefit to the user. The benefit of this tool is that it provides a benefit to the entire country.
As New Zealanders, we care deeply about our land. It’s our treasure. We want to protect and preserve it in the best way possible – I think that’s something we can all agree on.
Part of that is to make the best decisions about our land. And that’s what this new tool will help us do.