Disappointment with ORC over wilding trees

Otago Regional Council member Gerry Eckhoff says it is ''regrettable'' the council has earmarked no funding to support community groups, including those in Central Otago, battling to remove wilding trees.

At an ORC meeting this week Cr Eckhoff, who lives near Alexandra, voted for the ORC's amended long-term plan (LTP) overall.

But he voiced concern that no money was being provided to support community groups undertaking good work in tackling the growing wilding pine ''disaster''.

''I think it's regrettable that we let this sit,'' he said.

The Government had supported in principle providing national funding to help control wilding pines, but the detail of how this would be allocated and managed had yet to be clarified, he added in an interview.

And much more needed to be done about this important environmental issue.

He told the meeting he was concerned that delays, whether at national or regional levels, were adding to the looming problems.

Conifers that were going unsprayed because of inadequate funding would be dispersing many seeds which would spread and magnify the problem by adding many thousands more plants.

Otago community groups were already doing fine work, but more funding was needed to support them, if only on an interim basis, until larger-scale Government funding came available, he said.

In an earlier submission to the plan, Peter Willsman, co-chairman of the Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group, said that the ORC had noted in its proposed plan that wilding pines were a ''growing problem'' in ''iconic landscapes'' and were also a biodiversity issue.

The ORC proposed to undertake a wilding tree review and a stocktake throughout the region, but this had already been undertaken recently by The Otago Wilding Trust, of which the ORC was a member, he said in his submission.

Mr Willsman, of Queenstown, added this week that he was ''deeply disappointed'' that the hoped for close relationship with the ORC over the issue, and the funding sought had not eventuated.

The trust had sought that the ORC ''recognise the nature and scale of the problem'' of wilding conifers, including pines, and to earmark $100,000 a year to deal with it.

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