Otago Regional Council candidates say the organisation's
response to the wilding pine issue has been inadequate.
Photo by DOC.
Otago Regional Council candidates have criticised the
council's stance on wilding pines.
The council's ''hands-off approach'' was not meeting the
needs of the environment or communities, one candidate said
and others, including a sitting councillor, shared similar
concerns after the Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group
(WCG) wrote to the council candidates.
A response was received from 12 out of the 21 candidates.
In a letter to candidates, WCG co-chairman Peter Willsman, of
Queenstown, said the Otago community was concerned the
council, as the leading pest agency in the region, had not
taken a proactive role in wilding control.
Candidate Jon Mitchell said the policies ''that may be said
to relate to wilding pine in the regional policy statement
are entirely inadequate''.
''I am very comfortable with working to ensure that a much
more effective and realistic approach to the serious issue of
wilding pine control is adopted in the new regional policy
statement, as it is reviewed in the next council term,'' Mr
Mitchell wrote in response.
He said he had a sound appreciation of the impacts wilding
pines had on the environment which included invasion of
indigenous flora and fauna and increased fire risk.
Gary Kelliher said if he was elected to the council, he would
question its ''lack of involvement to date and the reasons
why'' and would lobby for a proactive ORC policy and support
for wilding conifer control in Otago.
Fellow candidate Andrew Rutherford admitted he did not have a
''strong set opinion on the issue of wilding pines in Otago''
but added ''there are many pine trees growing around
Queenstown with control only being seriously exercised around
the margins'' and said he would be willing to meet WCG to
find out more.
Gerry Eckhoff said that ''as a sitting member of the ORC, I
have endeavoured to engage the ORC as to its responsibilities
with wildings'' yet the ORC had ''shown no enthusiasm so far
for engaging on a much wider scale with the community''.
Mr Eckhoff said there needed to be a really proactive stance
by the regional council to what he labelled the ''biggest
landscape issue this region faces''.
- On Tuesday, the Queenstown Lakes District Council
authorised the mayor to sign the amended Otago Wilding Trust
deed. Amendments to the trust include a name change to Otago
Wilding Tree Trust and removal of the ORC as a founding
In a letter to Mayor Vanessa van Uden, ORC chairman Stephen
Woodhead said he had previously discussed the regional
council's concern ''with being a full member of the trust as
it conflicts with our role as a regulator in respect of