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Volunteers stem wilding spread at Flock Hill

22 March 2016

MEDIA RELEASE

Volunteers stem wilding spread at Flock Hill

Last weekend hundreds of volunteers removed a large number of wilding conifers, one of the worst pest plants, from Flock Hill Station in Canterbury.

This is the 19th year Environment Canterbury has organised wilding volunteer days, helped by the Waimakariri Ecological and Landscape Restoration Alliance (WELRA).

Tramping club members and business representatives were among volunteers who used saws and loppers to attack lone trees on outer edges of wilding blocks. This followed up on spraying of denser blocks from a helicopter and by ground-based contractors.

Volunteer efforts help prevent weed plants invading native grasslands and herb fields, spectacular limestone landscapes, ski-fields and farmland.They are vital to halting spread from 4000 hectares of Flock Hill, reached from alpine SH73 between Castle Hill and Lake Pearson.

A second volunteer day will be held on Saturday April 2.

WELRA drives the Flock Hill wilding project. Major funders this year are the Lotteries Environment and Heritage Fund and Department of Conservation Community Conservation Partnership Fund, supported by Environment Canterbury.

Neil Walkinshaw of WELRA said contorta pine is the most widespread wilding at Flock Hill with smaller areas of Douglas fir and mountain pine. Most originate from research plantings and some from trees sheltering the station homestead.

Environment Canterbury biosecurity manager Graham Sullivan ranks wilding pines as the number one pest plant threat in Canterbury and says a co-ordinated national approach will be needed to contain its spread.

“Last year $1.2 million was spent on wilding pine control in Canterbury,” Mr Sullivan said. “Landowners contributed 36%, Environment Canterbury 26% and funders including Lotteries and DOC the rest.

“Wildings are spreading 90,000 hectares each year, despite everything that’s being done. The Government has introduced its Wilding Conifer Management Strategy and what’s needed now is national funding to be spent in priority areas.”

Nick Ledgard, former forest researcher and a wilding expert, said DOC research had shown that in the eastern South Island wilding control was cost-effective because they are easier to eradicate than most other pest plants. Without two decades of control efforts, contorta would be invasive between Porters Pass and Lake Lyndon, he said.

Wilding conifers:

• Left uncontrolled, are predicted to spread across 20% of New Zealand within 20 years, costing the economy more than $1.2 billion

• Cover nearly 6% (1.8 million hectares) of the country’s total land area

• Cause the loss of native ecosystems, species extinctions and threaten large, open mountain landscapes that define the South Island high country

• Impact historic and tourism landscapes, reduce water yields from catchments and increase wild-fire severity

• Can increase the cost and complexity of developing pasture and commercial forestry.

Local Government New Zealand also supports efforts to remove wilding conifers: http://www.lgnz.co.nz/home/news-and-media/2016-media-releases/local-government-supports-concerted-effort-to-halt-the-spread-of-wilding-conifers/


ends

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