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WILDING pines in the Sugar Loaf Scenic Reserve near Cromwell are about to get the chop.
The conifers are identified as a weed pest under the Otago Regional Council’s pest plan.
The Central Otago District Council has confirmed the $90,000 job will start this week, and will be co-ordinated by the Central Otago Wilding Conifer Control Group, which has engaged Mike Hurring Logging and Contracting.
The Cromwell Community Board is chipping in $20,000 — 20% of the cost — and the balance is coming from the control group.
Budget 2020 allocated Crown funding of $100million over four years to expand the national wilding conifer control programme and the Central Otago group was allocated its share of control costs.
Cromwell’s Sugar Loaf mountain is a wilding pine seed source and council parks and recreation manager Gordon Bailey said the control group was keen to get the job done.
Seedlings of mixed age were already spreading down the slope towards the Lowburn inlet and would continue to do so if not controlled, he said.
"Council has responsibilities as a landowner to stop the spread of pest species including wilding conifers.
"We are also conscious of preserving and protecting the values and views of this well-known scenic reserve."
Contractors would mainly be working on two areas on the Sugar Loaf, an old shelter belt at the Lowburn end of the reserve, and the Lowburn Collie Club end of the reserve.
Other conifers dotted throughout the reserve would also be removed, including those near electricity lines.
Trees that could not be felled for safety reasons will be drilled and poisoned instead, before being removed.
Some trees were close to State Highway 8, so traffic controls would be in place.
The Cromwell Community Board has approved work to begin tomorrow and it should take about 10 days to fell and process the trees.
Meanwhile, using Jobs for Nature funding — part of the Government’s Covid-19 recovery package announced in mid 2020 — the Otago Regional Council is making progress on other wilding control programmes, including almost 6800ha of aerial and ground control of conifers this month near Luggate.
ORC environmental implementation manager Andrea Howard said good progress continued to be made for the Wakatipu and Central Otago areas under the national wilding conifer control programme.