Barry blasts ORC on wilding pines

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry and Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group co-chairman Peter...
Conservation Minister Maggie Barry and Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group co-chairman Peter Willsman survey wilding trees in the Ben Lomond basin from the Skyline gondola yesterday. Photo by Guy Williams.
Conservation Minister Maggie Barry yesterday told the Otago Regional Council to ''step up to the plate'' and take action on wilding trees.

Speaking at the launch in Queenstown of a community programme for controlling the pest plant on the slopes above the resort, Ms Barry said the regional council was ''dragging the chain'' on the problem, and warned the Government would take further measures if it and other councils failed to take action.

''The time for sitting back and waiting for miracles to occur has long passed.''

If left uncontrolled, wilding pines were predicted to spread across 20% of the country within two decades, at a cost to the economy of more than $1.2 billion.

Ms Barry announced a $10,000 grant to the Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group (WCG) for its ''Adopt a Plot'' scheme.

Wilding trees in the Ben Lomond basin.
Wilding trees in the Ben Lomond basin.
The group is one of five receiving a total of $345,000 for wilding pine control from the Community Conservation Partnerships Fund.

Another beneficiary is the Otago Wilding Conifer Control Group, which received $157,500 for controlling the spread of wildings from the Naseby forest.

WCG co-chairman Grant Hensman said the ORC had its ''head in the sand'' over wilding trees.

''These weeds are doubling every few years, and the ORC does nothing.''

Outspoken Otago Regional Council member Gerry Eckhoff said in June it was ''regrettable'' the council had not earmarked funding to support community groups to remove wilding trees.

The council proposes to review tree numbers throughout the region.

The WCG is spending $1.4 million on eradication in the Wakatipu Basin in the 2015-16 year.

Adopt a Plot will encourage community groups, schools, families and individuals to adopt a specific area of the Ben Lomond basin and be responsible for hand-clearing their area of seedlings and then maintaining it.

The group will provide training, advice and the loan of equipment.

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