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A Blow For Pine Tree Pest

A Blow For Pine Tree Pest

South Island High Country farmers are encouraged by today’s announcement that the Department of Conservation (DoC) will spend more money on controlling wilding pines.

“People in the high country have been aware of the enormity of this problem for many years and of the high cost of bringing it under control” said Ben Todhunter, Chairman of the South Island High Country Section of Federated Farmers of New Zealand (Inc).

DoC control of wilding pines in the high country is to increase 43 per cent due to a $718,000 a year rise in funding specifically for the task.

“We are pleased that DoC has recognised that the problem of wilding spread is not restricted to conservation land, and is looking to work with communities to prevent spread beyond DoC's boundaries.

"However, the extra funding should be put into perspective. In the Budget, the government earmarked to spend $46 million over the next four years to create new parks and reserves in the High Country.

"So the extra funding earmarked for managing its existing estate is tiny compared with how much the government will spend adding to its estate," Mr Todhunter said.

The former Mid Dome Soil Conservation Reserve in Southland is a frightening example of the effect of wilding tree spread, and the enormous cost of control.

Pinus contorta and other exotic conifer species were planted by the government and the Southland Catchment Board from the 1940's to 1980's to prevent soil erosion. The original planting area was 170 hectares. But a Forest Research study five years ago revealed that wilding infestation had extended over 13,650 hectares.

It has been estimated that a programme to remove wilding tree seed sources from Mid Dome and surrounding land would cost $2.7 million.

“Extend this to the rest of the South Island and the enormity of the problem can quickly be realised,” Mr. Todhunter said. “Many of the infestation sources were planted by Government or through Government schemes. We applaud this statement by the Minister of Conservation and hope that it is indicative of DoC's responsibility for the ongoing control of this significant pest throughout the South Island.”

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