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A $100,000 cash injection has created 16 jobs in Queenstown, removing wilding pines that pose wildfire and irrigation threats.
Many Kiwis have traditionally turned their back on the work, Central Wilding Control manager Amon Saunders said, but are grateful for the job opportunities post-Covid-19.
The funding is expected to be the first tranche of money spent in Queenstown on wilding control by the Government in the coming weeks, as it looks to address unemployment in the trouble-hit area.
Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor visited the site at Skipper’s Canyon yesterday and said great work had been done in the past 15 years by the Queenstown Lake District Council and community groups.
"Government has committed $100 million to boost the whole programme [across the country] and first and foremost to use the talents and capability of people in Queenstown to get jobs, [and] moving from tourism into wilding pine control would be a positive outcome for the environment.
"We have yet to work on the final figures, but clearly areas like Queenstown that have the capability and organisation will be the first to get money, but we have to spend it wisely and not ramp it up in a way that falls over."
He said the Government planned to create hundreds of jobs through the funding.
Mr Saunders indicated high living costs in Queenstown historically dissuaded Kiwis from taking wilding-control jobs, but the minister suggested prices could fall in coming months.
National Wilding Control Programme manager Sherman Smith said removing these invasive trees protected against wildfires and reduced threats to rivers.
"We are not against trees; it is about the right tree in the right place.
"They spread out surprisingly quickly, so loss of native species, biodiversity, they also take up a lot more water.
"We have the opportunity to protect those areas that are uniquely New Zealand, which people come to see as a tourist and to create jobs in the process, so it is a bit of a win-win."