Wilding control clocks on

Proud to be encouraging wilding removal in the Central Otago region are (from left) Central Otago...
Proud to be encouraging wilding removal in the Central Otago region are (from left) Central Otago Wilding Conifer Control Group project manager Phil Murray, Ministry for Primary Industries wilding conifers programme manager Sherman Smith and farmer Andrew Preston. Photo: Tom Kitchin
The trees Alexandra locals see when they look towards the well-known hillside clock may soon be no more.

Control groups are one step closer to eradicating wilding pines from the Central Otago landscape and work on removing the conifers behind the Alexandra clock will begin later this month.

It is a joint project by the New Zealand Wilding Conifer Management Group, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and landowners.

Some of the groups involved met on site yesterday to monitor progress and discuss future plans.

The work will be carried out on Matangi Station, the Little Valley Station and the Lower Manorburn reserve.

The total work area is about 15,000ha.

Central Otago Wildling Conifer Control Group project manager Phil Murray said it would take about a month to complete.

The work was budgeted at $80,000.

Contractors will cut down the trees around the clock and spray the trees further back with herbicide.

``The community here really does value the Central Otago landscape, which is open and treeless,'' Mr Murray said.

``[Wildings] go against the natural character of the land.''

The work in Alexandra is part the National Wilding Conifer Control Programme. A programme pamphlet said conifer trees planted in the wrong place could damage natural landscapes and compete with native plants for sunlight and water.

Wildling seed can be spread many kilometres from the original tree which could damage landscape further afield.

``Some people don't think there is a problem but it's important everyone gets on the same page to understand the threat they pose,'' Mr Murray said.

In May 2016, the then government pledged $16 million over four years for the first phase of a national conifer control programme.

Several organisations donated to the programme and in total the funding comes to about $21million.

Now, instead of taking four years, the $21 million is likely to be spent in three to reduce the period in which the wildling seed can spread.

MPI wilding conifers programme manager Sherman Smith said the work had to be done urgently.

``If we don't do something, it will spread anywhere fast in the country,'' Mr Smith said.

The work in and around Alexandra is part of the Lammermoor area of the programme, which covers 258,000ha from Alexandra to Waipori to the northern end of the Rock and Pillar Range and Lake Onslow.

The area had a budget of $400,000. A further $75,000 is budgeted for a follow-up programme in 2019-20 to completely eradicate the seed.

Central Otago farmer and owner of Galloway Station, Andrew Preston, has spent the past 10 years removing conifers from his property.

``As kids, we spent time up here and there were two trees on top of the Manorburn [dam],'' Mr Preston said.

``[Now] they blanket the skyline. We want it back into a landscape and environment we're proud of,'' he said.

Lammermoor is one of nineteen areas in the country where the programme is taking place.

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