ORC to be asked for support

Wilding pines in the  Roaring Meg area between Queenstown and Cromwell. Photo by DoC.
Wilding pines in the Roaring Meg area between Queenstown and Cromwell. Photo by DoC.

If the Otago Regional Council and the Otago Conservation Board do not join forces with Otago authorities to wage war against wilding conifer infestations, "our children are not going to look at anything but pine trees", Queenstown Lakes Mayor Vanessa van Uden says.

Ms van Uden and Briana Pringle, district forester and Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group chief executive, called on conservation board members to voice their support and lobby the regional council to back efforts by district councils, the Department of Conservation (Doc), landowners and volunteers, during the board's meeting in Queenstown yesterday.

The level of funding will determine "if we win this war" to control and eradicate the introduced pest which suffocates native biodiversity and obliterates natural landscapes, Ms van Uden told board members.

Regional council recognition of the Otago-wide issue was sought to take the matter to central Government, but its response was wilding pine infestations were a landscape only problem and a matter for territorial authorities, Doc and landowners to deal with, Ms van Uden said.

All Otago mayors and chairmen adopted a deed to form a united trust, except the regional council.

As much as 73,000ha of the Queenstown Lakes district alone was infested by wilding pines to some degree. It would cost an estimated $5 million over five years to contain and eradicate the dozen species spreading seeds, Mrs Pringle said.

The control group and partners spent $637,800 in the year ended April 30 to control and clear 7377ha of land in the Wakatipu basin. Funds for programmes until the end of summer 2013 totalled $700,000 - short of the $1 million target, she said.

Board members responded by saying wilding pines were a water, as well as a land issue, and so were the regional council's responsibility. Members asked for a list of alternative tree species to be supplied to Doc for farmers when planting trees for carbon credits and shelter belts.

Chairwoman Abby Smith, of Dunedin, said board members fully supported wilding control programmes, as they had for years, and asked if a member could sit or liaise with the trust.

The board resolved to draft a letter to urge the regional council to commit to the cause.