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Wilding conifer control funding welcomed

August 14, 2014

MEDIA RELEASE

Environment Canterbury welcomes wilding conifer control funding

Environment Canterbury today welcomed the government’s announcement of $309,000 in funding to support wilding conifer control work by the Waimakariri Ecological and Landscape Restoration Alliance (WELRA) for the next three years.

Conifer trees were planted in the Waimakariri Basin during the 1950s and 1960s as part of an erosion research control programme. New Zealand’s climate encourages quick growth and conifers can seed up to 10 kilometres from the original trees.

This has led to rapid spread across the upland landscape, which affects recreational and other opportunities. It also has a significant impact economically through the loss of grazing land, and culturally and ecologically when pines shade out rare plants and habitats.

Environment Canterbury Resource Management Director Kim Drummond says the funding from the Department of Conservation’s Community Conservation Partnership Fund, announced today by Associate Conservation Minister Nicky Wagner, would add impetus to the excellent collaborative work that has been done over the last few years to control the pest.

“Wilding conifers represent a very serious threat to the biodiversity of the Waimakariri Basin and the large, open montane landscapes that define the South Island high country,” Mr Drummond said.

A successful partnership between WELRA, a community-driven incorporated society, the Department of Conservation and Environment Canterbury has been instrumental in containing and reducing wilding conifer around Flock Hill in upper Waimakariri.

The Canterbury Wilding Conifer Strategy 2010 – 2015 identifies the partnership approach as a key component to achieving its objectives. The strategy includes an agreement between the Department of Conservation, Land Information New Zealand, Federated Farmers and Environment Canterbury to take a united approach to managing the wilding problem in Canterbury.

“Collaboration means we have one contract manager, in this case the department, and one contract gang,” Mr Drummond said. “The efficiencies from working together means more funding for control work.”

Environment Canterbury has been involved in this work for several years at a number of levels. “Funding from our Biodiversity Fund and the Immediate Steps programme through the Canterbury Water Management Strategy Selwyn-Waihora Zone Committee has been provided,” Mr Drummond said. “We offerWELRA staff time, work plan support, financial administration and reporting, co-ordination of volunteer days, support for grant applications and advice on control priorities and methodology.”

Environment Canterbury funded a consultant to prepare a wilding conifer management plan and later a review. It has been part of working group assisting the Ministry for Primary Industries in developing a national strategy for the management of the pest. The document is currently at final draft stage.

“WELRA, with the support of funders and partners, is making excellent progress on the initial control operations across the basin,” Mr Drummond said. “This new government funding means the eradication of wilding conifer from the Waimakariri Basin remains a realistic and achievable goal.”

Background

WELRA has a Wilding Tree Management Plan for the Waimakariri area, raises funds and coordinates control work to implement the management plan. Over the last six years WELRA has raised over $900,000 for wilding control which has been spent on ground and aerial contractors.

The contractors’ control work has been complemented by the efforts of volunteers who have removed wildings from large, sparsely covered areas near State Highway 73 and elsewhere. Volunteer groups are made up of tramping clubs, 4WD enthusiasts, environmental and school groups, businesses, and concerned community members.

Unlike gorse and broom, conifer seeds remain viable for only 3 to 5 years. If an area is cleared of wilding and seed source trees have been removed, two or three maintenance passes at 3-year intervals is all that is required to eliminate the wildings from that area forever.

The six wilding species targeted for control in WELRA’s management plan score 9 out of 10 in the Department of Conservation’s ‘Effect on Ecosystems’ database (a score of 10 having the worst effect on native ecosystems).

Wildings are long-lived and capable of out-competing all native plant species in nearly all communities except dense forest. They can therefore change the ecology, habitat and natural dynamics of large areas very rapidly.

As well as the impact on biodiversity, wilding trees threaten to smoother the renowned mountain views and open vistas of the tussock lands along Highway 73 and the Trans Alpine rail link – one of New Zealand’s most scenic and popular tourist routes, to increase the cost of keeping infrastructure corridors open, and to impact the productive value of pastoral lands.

Cultural and historical outcomes of the project include protection of areas of considerable cultural interest to Waitaha and Ngāi Tahu, and sites of historic interest in the Avoca.

Funding

Environment Canterbury has an annual budget of approximately $400,000 for wilding conifer control and a further sum is provided from other funders such as land occupiers and the Lotteries Environment and Heritage Fund.

Funding is available to landowners from the Canterbury Biodiversity Strategy and the Immediate Steps programme for projects which protect or enhance biodiversity and/or improve water quality. To apply for funding for more information, contact the Environment Canterbury Biodiversity Team – (03) 365 3828 orwww.ecan.govt.nz/biodiversity


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