8 May 2019
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has teamed up with Biosecurity New Zealand and Environment Canterbury to assess the extent of wilding pine infestations across about 400,000 hectares of central South Island high country.
Government agencies including Biosecurity New Zealand, which is part of the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), NZDF, Department of Conservation and Land Information New Zealand are working with local government agencies, forestry and farming industries, landowners and communities to halt the unwanted spread of the trees, which are also referred to as wilding conifers.
Air Commodore Tim Walshe, the Air Component Commander, said a Royal New Zealand Navy Seasprite SH-2G(I) helicopter surveyed about 400,000 hectares of tussock land in the upper Waitaki River catchment, including Mackenzie Basin and Albury Range.
“As a key partner in the National Wilding Conifer Control Programme, the NZDF has been working with Biosecurity New Zealand, other government agencies and communities to halt the unwanted spread of these tree pests,” Air Commodore Walshe said.
MPI team manager for long-term programmes Sherman Smith said preventing the spread of wilding pines required a sustained, collective effort from wilding tree management groups, landholders and central and local government.
Environment Canterbury biosecurity advisor special projects Steven Palmer said the survey had helped the agencies gain a better understanding of the extent of the problem in remote areas of central South Island tussock land and the control methods that needed to be used.
In February, the NZDF, Biosecurity New Zealand and Horizons Regional Council worked together to survey the spread of wilding pines in about 500,000 hectares in the central North Island, including in Tongariro National Park.
Results from that survey gave insights on the scale of the problem in this area and will enable MPI to determine priority areas for wilding pine control.
Other recent surveys involving the NZDF were conducted on Molesworth Station in Marlborough.
Wilding pines cover more than 1.8 million hectares of land across the country and are spreading at an estimated rate of five per cent, or 90,000 hectares, a year.
They are a significant problem in areas where there is no native forest because they modify the natural ecosystem, alter the landscape and cause native plants and animals to die.
The National Wilding Conifer Control programme has controlled the spread of wilding pines across about 1.5 million hectares of land and cleared more than 40,000 hectares of dense and moderate infestation.