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The attack effort on Otago’s wilding pines seems set to treble.
Over the past year, $1.8 million was spent controlling 332,000ha in the region through the Ministry of Primary Industry-led wilding conifer control programme.
At a recent Otago Regional Council meeting, chief executive Sarah Gardner said she was told by ministry staff the work would soon triple.
This was echoed by the Central Otago Wilding Conifer Control Group.
Ministry Wilding Conifer Programme manager Sherman Smith said phase one was 85% complete and planning for the second phase was under way.
No final decisions had been made on new areas to be controlled and he did not comment on what the funding increase would be.
The next phase would involve increased control efforts to roll back areas occupied by wilding conifers to the point where they could be sustainably managed by landowners.
There were further areas which required control in the next phase and already targeted areas which would now need heavier investment.Otago would continue to be a focus area in phase two, he said.
"This is because much of Otago is highly vulnerable to wilding conifer invasion.
"Unless controlled, existing infestations in the region will continue to expand, threatening biodiversity, economic production and iconic landscapes."
The programme is primarily funded by the ministry, with input from landowners, councils and trusts.
"Wilding conifers are a seriously established pest in New Zealand.
"Growing in the wrong place, they out-compete native plants and wildlife, reduce precious water resources, displace useful grazing land and harbour pests."
The key areas of control for phase one were The Remarkables, Kawarau, Dunstan, St Mary-Ida, Lammermoor and Northern Eyre.
"We’ve made significant gains in Otago, but there are still many large, problem seed sources outside our current control areas that are a source of wilding spread — particularly around the Wakatipu Basin."
Central Otago Wilding Conifer Control Group project manager Phil Murray said the project was moving along well.
The work tripling sounded "about right", he said.
"But we do need communities to come on board and support it by maintaining areas after we’ve done the job."
The work would also move more into urban communities.