Earlier this month the summer wilding conifer spray programme got under way on the Mahu Whenua Open Space Covenants in the Wakatipu. This work is part of a long-standing project to eradicate wilding conifers which if left unchecked will destroy this unique landscape and its natural values.  The programme is being co-ordinated by the Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Control group.

The group is community-led and co-ordinates the responsibilities of agencies, landowners, land managers and the general public. It is run by volunteers with representation from Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC), the Department of Conservation (DOC) and Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) as well as landowners, land managers, members of the public and community groups.

Certain wilding conifers pose a significant risk to New Zealand’s eco-system. Conifer seed is easily spread by wind and it readily grows in lightly grazed and destocked areas of the high country. Without active control, areas are quickly overtaken by exotic forest. Because of the remote and rugged locations, these forests are usually of no economic value.  If left unchecked, tens of thousands of hectares will succumb to wilding conifers, which have the potential to obliterate native grasslands, shrublands and even native beech forest.

Last month’s control work was undertaken on Coronet Peak Station which is one of the four properties protected by QEII National Trust under the Mahu Whenua covenants. The aerial boom technique was used as the trees, mostly Douglas fir and larch species, were too dense to control in any practical way from the ground.

The area treated had been sprayed in the past but due to the constant rain of seed from neighbouring commercial and wilding forests, ongoing treatment is required to keep wilding conifers under control until seed sources are removed

This year after public consultation the Queenstown Lakes District Council opted for early harvest of the council owned Coronet Forest, as they recognised the substantial cost it incurs on surrounding land owners.

Work by the Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group is complimented by many other groups undertaking conifer control on the Mahu Whenua covenants including the Arrowtown Choppers (who have secured substantial funding for tree control work in the vicinity of Arrowtown), Soho Property Ltd (who have spent in the vicinity of $2m to date) and students from the Southland Institute of Technology.