Wednesday, 20 February 2019 12:36

Not so wild about pines

Written by 
MPI estimates 20% of NZ will be infested with unwanted wilding conifers in 20 years if their spread is not contained. MPI estimates 20% of NZ will be infested with unwanted wilding conifers in 20 years if their spread is not contained.

Concerns about the continued spread of wilding pines are coming from both ends of the country.

Warnings have been sounded in recent weeks about the serious menace not only to the high country but also to Northland’s coastal margins and dune lakes.

NZ Deerstalkers’ Association spokesman Bill O’Leary, of Nelson, says recent events have highlighted the fire risk.

“We have every good reason to be concerned,” O’Leary says. “Hunters had already reported seedlings growing in remote places from the northern Ruahines to the Marlborough back country and the Mackenzie Basin.”

If left unchecked, they will forever change our high country landscape, he says. 

“The biggest impacts will be on our unique biodiversity, pastoral farming and soaking up our water resources.” 

The scale of the problem is immense and it has to be tackled on a large scale, O’Leary says. The way pines can seed and multiply rapidly makes the challenge different from killing possums. 

“Communities and government must consider this a priority for future funding and control. Proven control methods including spraying and helicopter ‘wanding’, and the work of ground personnel, are having the desired effect. The costs of these operations are significant, but hunters believe there is no alternative; we need to be in for the long haul.” 

Meanwhile, the increasing impact wilding conifers are having on Northland’s coastal margins, dune lakes and rare gumland ecosystems has prompted local authority calls for a regional stakeholder group to address the issue.

The Northland Regional Council (NRC) is driving a push to form a group, saying it would be well-placed – with help from Landcare Research – to fully assess the extent and impact wilding conifers are having on the north.

Council biosecurity manager Don McKenzie says wilding conifers have long been an issue in Northland, many of them ‘escapees’ from commercial forestry plantations or shelter belt plantings decades ago.

However, he stresses the council is not looking to blame or penalise commercial foresters or other landowners for the issue. “What we’re saying is ‘right tree, right place, right purpose’.”

He says wilding conifers may be cedars, pines (including pinus radiata), firs, cypress, larches, and spruces.  

While the impacts of wilding conifers in the South Island are well-known and understood – their extermination has been well funded in recent years – the situation in Northland is less clear.

“We know from our staff’s own observations in the field, and our examination of recent aerial imagery, that wilding pines are having an increasing… impact on our coastal margins, dune lakes and rare gumland ecosystems.”

He says the problem appears to be worsening with wilding pines slowly increasing their reach and scale.

“Infrastructure companies [e.g. power line companies] have to spend significant sums on trimming and removal to protect that infrastructure from potential tree-related damage.” 

Northland’s sub-tropical climate also appears to suit the conifers.

These trees have minimal commercial value because their poor form and heavy branches result in low grade logs.

McKenzie says wilding conifers should be branded pests, as are wild ginger, given their effects. NRC is therefore convening a regional group of key agencies this month to examine the wilding conifer issue.  It was hoping local and central government agencies, commercial foresters and iwi would attend.

McKenzie says he favours spending $900,000 annually on the problem for ten years or so.

“That would allow us to make reasonable inroads into addressing local wilding conifer issues.”

More like this

Farmers queue up for drought advice

The Ministry for Primary Industries says, in the space of a week, it’s had over 120 applications for assistance from the special drought recovery fund.

Hunters urged to follow rules

The New Zealand Deerstalkers' Association (NZDA) is urging hunters to follow the new anti-COVID rules with a shift to Level 3. 

Possum control plan suspended

OSPRI has suspended possum control operations in support of its TBfree disease eradication programme during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Featured

$700m for freshwater clean up

The Government has announced a $700 million fund to support the primary sector and other groups in meeting new clean water standards.

Synlait's milk price drop

Canterbury milk processor Synlait has reduced its 2019-20 forecast base milk price by 20c to $7.05/kgMS.

 

Overstayers irk farmers

A new law preventing the eviction of tenants from rental properties is causing a headache for some dairy farmers.

Katie’s parting shot

Outgoing Federated Farmers president Katie Milne has hit out at Wellington-based government officials for their lack of understanding about farming.

Feed shortage looming large

Parts of the Waikato are starting to recover from the drought, but the availability of feed remains a concern, says DairyNZ’s Sharon Morrell.

Southland on the brink

Southland is teetering on the edge of a bad situation, according to DairyNZ’s lead consulting officer in the South Island, Tony Finch.

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

The Hound

Dirty water

The Hound understands that Federated Farmers has been cut out of the information loop, for the past year, on the…

Who’s paying?

Your canine crusader noticed a full-page ad recently run in a farming paper calling on meat companies SFF and Alliance…

» Connect with Rural News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter

Popular Reads

Drop in payout looms

Dairy farmers are being told to brace for a big drop in milk payout next season.