Wilding pine control efforts ramp up

Wilding pines on the Pigroot. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Wilding pines on the Pigroot. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
A nationwide plan to tackle more than 800,000 hectares of wilding pine infestations over the next year will generate up to 550 new jobs and help prevent future wild fires, say Biosecurity Minister Damien O'Connor and Civil Defence Minister Peeni Henare.

"We're ramping up our wilding control activity in areas where jobs are needed most," O'Connor said.

"Budget 2020 included $100 million for wilding pine control through the Jobs for Nature programme."

"Over $36 million of that funding will be spent in the next 12 months as part of our four-year programme. That extends our work from 19 to 58 sites across New Zealand."

This included a range of long-term projects led by regional councils and smaller-scale community partnerships, which would see "significant work" in Northland, across the Central North Island, in Marlborough, Nelson/Tasman, Queenstown, Otago and Southland, O'Connor said.

"More than $17 million of work is allocated over 400,000 hectares of wilding infestations in Canterbury alone, including extensive infestations in Craigieburn and the Mackenzie," O'Connor said.

Civil Defence Minister Peeni Henare was in the Mackenzie District last week to survey the fire damage near Lake Pukaki, the spread of which has in part been attributed to wilding pines.

Part of the affected area late last night. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon
The spread of the large fire near Lake Pukaki has in part been attributed to wilding pines. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

"I saw the devastation first-hand, and heard concerns from locals that the wilding pines are a pest, and play a dangerous part in helping to spread fires," said Henare.

Minister O'Connor said wilding pine control was part of the Government's commitment to provide economic support for people, with a significant environmental benefit.

"This is not necessarily about putting people into new careers. It is about finding work for people now, while their sectors recover from Covid-19."

As wilding control was largely seasonal work, with some year-round operations, it would allow companies to employ new people and to keep on existing staff, said O'Connor.

New Zealanders could expect to see significant changes to the landscape as control activity increased, O'Connor said.

"In many areas, like Queenstown and the Mackenzie basin, we'll be removing longstanding infestations that have become a familiar part of the landscape. People are inclined to think any tree has some value. But the recent fires near Lake Pukaki, only a few years after the devastating fires in Flock Hill, have shown that wilding pines threaten the ecosystem, the economy – and the community."

"Bringing this work forward allows us to tackle these pest plants early, before they become a more significant problem".

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