Doc aims at wilding pines in Skippers Canyon

A Nokomai Helicopters aircraft uses American drift reduction nozzles when spraying herbicide on...
A Nokomai Helicopters aircraft uses American drift reduction nozzles when spraying herbicide on wilding pines near urban areas, as it did on behalf of Doc Wakatipu on Ben Lomond Station on Tuesday. Photo by Doc.
A swathe of wilding pines in Skippers Canyon near Queenstown is the target of a new offensive by the Department of Conservation (Doc) in the war against the introduced tree which is a menace to biodiversity.

About 35ha of conservation land is being targeted and $20,000 of Doc Wakatipu funds has been set aside for the latest assault in a long campaign in the valley officially known as Mt Aurum Recreation Reserve.

''It's part of a wilding pine eradication and removal project going on for more than 10 years to protect the outstanding natural landscape and gold-mining heritage,'' Jamie Cowan, Doc Wakatipu biodiversity threats ranger and Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group operations manager, said yesterday.

''Several hundred hectares have been done over the last few years and we're getting down to the nitty gritty.

''We will agree it's not going to look pretty, with a lot of standing dead trees, and we recognise it's going to make a bit of a mess, but we have to take a longer view and protect it for generations to come.''

Mr Cowan said the aim was to return the valley to the state it was in more than 100 years ago, when it had no exotic trees. Areas near the historic Skippers School would not be sprayed. There were some species of pine which did not spread and added character and shade to the reserve, he said.

Mt Aurum Recreation Reserve will be closed to the public for wilding pine operations from Sunday morning and will reopen the next day.

Concessionaires had been advised and ''understood the bigger picture'', Mr Cowan said.

Residents would not be affected. Signs were posted at Skippers saddle yesterday, the entry to the valley from the Coronet Peak access road.

Mr Cowan said a common herbicide named Answer would be applied by boom spray on a helicopter. Spraying would not be applied to waterways and measures were in place to stop spray drifting.

It will be safe to re-enter the reserve on Monday once the herbicide had dried.

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