Wilding pines control work gets $7m boost

by Lauren Pattemore - Oct 19, 2023

An extra $7 million is being allocated nationally towards wilding conifer reduction work this financial year, a funding announcement that's been celebrated by the Otago Regional Council (ORC) although it's not yet known how much each region will receive.

The ORC said in a media statement that Otago is the most affected region in the country by wilding pines.

The additional national funding was announced yesterday 9October 18) by the Ministry for Primary Industries at the Wilding Pines Conference, held in Queenstown at the Memorial Hall. The $7m will come from the Department of Conservation budgets.

The Otago Regional chair Gretchen Robertson is hopeful for different areas in Otago to be given a good portion of the $7 million, as the region has "very highly spread-prone species" and vulnerable surrounding land.

"We have a strong case for investment... control of wilding pines is important in Otago. Wilding pines cause problems for biodiversity, water yield, fire risk, primary production and landscape value. Great progress has been made, we can’t afford to go backwards," Ms Robertson says.

The Otago Regional Council says 8.4 percent of Otago’s land area (295,830 hectares) is affected by wilding pines and about 70 percent of Otago is assessed as "very highly vulnerable" to future infestation.

The extra funding will be prioritised to areas that have the most spread-prone species of wilding pine, the vulnerability of surrounding land and the area-to-cost ratio.

The National Control Programme for Wilding Conifer Control was established in 2016, and the ORC says $7.5m in control operations funding was already allocated to the project this year from Budget 2020, and $10m has been budgeted nationally for the next decade.

However, the ORC says the regional council have been urging the government to commit to additional funding of $15m to $25m each year for the next ten years.

Speaking to organisers during the conference, Mayor Glyn Lewers said that the wilding pines pose a big wildfire risk to Queenstown, particularly to Ben Lomond and up and above Queenstown Hill.

He says there needs to be a "serious conversation" about how wilding pines and the wildfire risk is going to be dealt with.

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