Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Conservation Minister Maggie Barry say wilding pines control work has nearly reached its first year target of a million hectares.
“20 per cent of New Zealand will be covered in unwanted wilding conifers within 20 years if their spread isn't stopped. They already cover more than 1.8 million hectares of New Zealand and until now have been spreading at about 5 per cent a year,” Mr Guy says.
“The National Wilding Conifer Control Programme was put in place in 2016 to prevent their spread and systematically remove them from much of the land already taken over.”
Ms Barry says wildings compete with native plants and animals for sunlight and water and can severely alter natural landscapes.
“The control programme is to protect our conservation land, iconic landscapes, tourist routes, high country farming heritage and sensitive water catchments from these invaders,” Ms Barry says.
“Last year the Government committed an additional $16 million to wilding control over the next four years and that’s on top of an $11 million already spent each year.”
“Control work has involved targeted aerial spraying of individual trees in remote areas where there is light wilding infestation, and ground control in more heavily infested areas. The programme this year covers 14 initial priority areas, including extensive areas of conservation land and farmland in Central North Island, Marlborough, Canterbury, Otago and Southland.”
Minister Guy says wilding conifer are incredibly hard to get rid of once they become established.
“Prevention is the best form of management. Removing young seedlings before they start producing seeds costs less than $10 per hectare, but removing mature trees can cost over $10,000 per hectare.”
Minister Barry says wildings are public enemy number one in the War on Weeds and top the Dirty Dozen 2017 list.
“The Department of Conservation’s Community Fund has financed a number of community groups, trusts and organisations to carry out wilding conifer control ion work in 2016/17, complementing the work of the national control programme by reducing wilding conifer spread in low density areas.”
The Wilding Conifer Control Programme has already started preliminary planning for 2017/18 control operations.
The Programme is being implemented by the Ministry for Primary Industries, Department of Conservation, and Land Information New Zealand in partnership with other central government agencies, iwi groups, local government, forestry and farming industries, landowners, researchers and community trusts and organisations.