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Wilding Pines

Having visited the South Island last week and spent a lot of time going around the high country back blocks visiting sheep and beef stations, I was surprised to see how clean their lands were compared to the DOC land across their boundary and also at the funding that these station owners have put into the control of invasive plants and wilding pines.

One station manager said that his owners had spent $6 million on just controlling wilding pines and that they had put aside another $2 million in their budgets to control invasive weeds and wilding pines over the next year. You could see where they had major cleared areas and they were now going back over these areas to make sure no other wilding pines were getting established.

We drove through several large stations from between 18,000 hectares to over 50,000 hectares, and saw very few wilding pines. We were told that the station owners had arranged for volunteers from local service clubs to walk over the ground, cutting the wilding pines down and putting paste on the stumps to prevent regrowth. Although the service clubs were given significant donations for their members to provide this work, it also gave the volunteers a chance to get out and see the big outdoors of our beautiful country. The wilding pines which were being eradicated were at around 30-40 cm high at the time they were being cut down.

These stations had also spent huge amounts on fencing, with one putting in over 220 kilometres of sheep proof fencing alongside water reticulation to all there fenced paddocks, and they had also fenced sensitive areas off along with all significant water bodies.

The fenced paddocks ranged from 25 to 50 hectares, and had all been top dressed with lime, a small amount of fertiliser, and then over-sown with clover and grass seed. This pasture management, coupled with their grazing techniques, allowed them to ensure the natural plants flourished.

Between 3 stations that I visited they had jointly spent nearly $20 million controlling invasive weeds and wilding pines and all of the owners realise that they will have to continue to budget for weed control going forward to the future.

When you compare the DoC managed high country estate with the privately managed stations, you rapidly realise that the DoC methods for control of invasive weeds and wilding pines, is something that we shouldn’t aspire too. It seems that it’s all about the perception that if we stop farming in the high country land nature will take over and everything will be right. Unfortunately this attitude couldn’t be further from reality in the light of the results seen across the DoC managed high country estate.

What seems to have been forgotten is that there are only approximately 2,350 native plants in New Zealand and approximately 24,000 introduced plants in New Zealand, many of which (wilding pines being an obvious example) are smothering our native plants and given time, will lead to the extinction of many of our native plants.

With good management and commitment from the owners and staff of these high country stations which I visited, they are taking back control of their high country to make it look a lot more natural as it should be, so thumbs up from me to these committed owners and staff.

DOC should take a leaf out of the high country farmer’s playbook to see how to keep our back country pristine, particularly in relation to wilding pines.

© Scoop Media

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