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Arrowtown Wilding Group spokesman Ben Teele said about 50,000 sizeable trees had been removed from about 400 hectares around the township since the project began about 12 months ago.
That meant the work was 95% complete, despite having to be put on hold for about three months during Covid-19 restrictions, and only a few small patches remained to be felled in the next month or two.
Mr Teele said that apart from a day of helicopter boom spraying on German Hill last March, the work had largely been carried out by a crew from Alexandra-based company Central Wilding Tree Control.
The group’s focus was now on the second, much longer-term phase, which was to replant felled areas with non-invasive native and exotic species that would enhance the township’s renowned autumn colours.
Part of the Arrowtown Village Association, the group was planning a community "Beech Party" on April 18 to plant up to 2000 beech and totara trees on a site between Bush Creek and Eichardt’s Flat.
Replanting trials began last year in a few areas on Tobins Face, where dense stands of wilding trees had been cleared.
The 700 exotics and similar number of natives planted so far were growing well, he said.
"If we can do these small-scale plantings with community labour, and they work, then we’ll look at fundraising for reforestation projects.
"So instead of people cutting down trees, they’ll be paid to plant them."
However, more data was needed on the trees’ survival rates to support major funding applications.
Over the next 20 to 25 years, the hillsides visible from the township would be planted in mostly non-invasive exotic species, including particular varieties of poplar, oak, ash, elm and maple with "vibrant" autumn colours.
The land behind that would be replanted with native tree and shrub species.
The group is implementing a long-term strategy it developed after consulting the community in 2017.
It raised about $1.1million from charitable trusts, the Lottery Grants Board and central government through the Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group and Ministry for Primary Industries.
About a quarter of those funds had been retained to pay for future operations to clear regrowth, Mr Teele said.