Conservation, commercial and community groups to unite on wilding conifer control

By Jonathan Carson, published on - Environment May 23 2017

by dpadmin on 24th May 2017

Forestry companies are looking at contributing time and money to help control the spread of wilding conifers in the Nelson region under a new management plan being developed with the Department of Conservation.

A wilding conifer stakeholder group, involving forestry companies, DOC, Nelson and Tasman councils, land owners, iwi, and community groups, is working on a collaborative approach to controlling wildings on conservation land.

Wilding conifers — exotic trees that have spread from commercial and legacy plantations — are a major threat to New Zealand’s native plants and animals, as well as farming, tourism and water supply.
The Department of Conservation has been working to control the spread in high-priority areas, including Abel Tasman National Park and Richmond Forest Park.


And while the Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust is close to eradication in the park, recent monitoring of the Red Hills area in the Richmond Range has found the problem is getting worse.

DOC Nelson partnerships manager Matt Hippolite said the development of a collaborative management plan was about stakeholders being “good neighbours” and sharing the cost of controlling the invasion.

The cost of knocking back wild conifers to a point where they can be managed in the Richmond Ranges alone is estimated at $1.5 million, far beyond DOC’s budget.

Hippolite said stakeholder discussions had included the possibility of forestry companies providing staff and funds to help conservation efforts.

“I think they’ve been offering that support in the past, but without a clear plan about the areas that need to be addressed first it’s hard for them to enact that opportunity. So we’re working towards a clear management plan which will inform where those opportunities for in-kind contributions are.”

He said it was a “win-win” opportunity as forestry companies could use the work as training for people looking to enter the viticulture industry.
Hippolite said the aim was to eradicate wildings from conservation land and knock back legacy plantations, which were introduced by the government more than 30 years ago as a perceived solution to erosion.

The stakeholder group was also looking to better manage “exacerbator” sites — commercial plantations at high-risk of spreading seeds onto conservation land.

DOC partnerships manager Martin Rodd with wilding conifers on the Gordon Range in Mount Richmond Forest Park in 2008.
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“The long term potential is to do the transformational change in terms of knocking down the legacy infestations where we’re only then dealing with contemporary infestations going forward.”

The Nelson City Council recently announced it was more than doubling its financial investment in controlling wildings in the Dun Mountain area, as well as retiring retiring 40 hectares of Douglas Fir plantation.

Hippolite said the ideal outcome would be to have a dedicated fund, supported by stakeholders, that could result in trampers, hunters, and others being paid to undertake wilding control.

He said there had always been a “general willingness” of forestry companies to contribute to solutions and the management plan was about providing a pathway for that to happen.

“The idea is it becomes a sustainable approach — ongoing contributions and ongoing management control.”
Nelson Forests managing director Lees Seymour said the industry has always been open to helping to manage wildings, but wanted to ensure it wasn’t a “random, shotgun” approach.

Hippolite said Nelson Forests was willing to contribute staff time and money if a management plan was established.
“We’ve offered it in the past but we wanted to make sure it was well managed and well structured,” he said.
“It’s something that we’ve wanted for a long time. I think everybody wants it.”

Hippolite said controlling wildings was a major priority for DOC.

“People say, ‘What’s wrong with a pine tree?’ It’s a tree, but if that’s all you want then pines are so prolific they will eventually close canopy cover and kill everything else that exists below them.

“We’ll start losing species and biodiversity and we’ll end up with monoculture and when you walk through the bush you just won’t see some of the things you see now.”

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