Wilding pine on hill in Upper Clutha

    Taking action on wilding conifers

    (Republished from Wanaka App article - 18th January 2023)

    Otago Regional Council (ORC) is supporting the work of the Upper Clutha Wilding Tree Group, which aims to control wilding trees in the Upper Clutha area and says now is the time for action.

    It is one of three community-run groups across Central Otago and Queenstown Lakes trying to control wilding conifers, which are a significant problem in Otago.

    Upper Clutha Wilding Tree Group facilitator Rob Phillips says the group is currently mapping wilding infestations and developing a plan, setting out the areas to control, priorities and timeframes.

    “Cost-effective surveillance and control of wilding conifers is achievable if we act now,” Rob said.

    “Without intervention, wilding pines will continue to spread. If action is delayed, the impacts of wilding conifers and control costs will increase exponentially.”

    The group is working with central and local government, and with other community groups in advocating for ongoing funding to deal with the problem both in the Upper Clutha and elsewhere in Otago.

    Wilding conifers smother native vegetation, reduce stream flows, increase the risk of wildfires and change the landscape from tussock and native shrubs to an evergreen tree-dominated environment, ORC project delivery specialist Gavin Udy said.

    If left unchecked, wilding conifers will out-compete native plants, reduce native animal habitat, reduce water yield, limit productive land use, increase wildfire risk and permanently alter the Upper Clutha landscape.

    “It’s great to see another group join the fight against wildings,” Gavin said.

    The two other community groups focusing on controlling wilding conifers are the Central Otago Wilding Conifer Control Group and Whakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group. 

    The National Wilding Conifer Control Programme, led by Biosecurity New Zealand, and managed locally by ORC, has funded control work across Otago since 2016.

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