Initiative to tackle wildings welcomed

Botanist Emeritus Prof Sir Alan Mark has welcomed a change of approach by the Otago Regional Council in tackling Otago’s big problem with wilding conifers.

Last month the ORC met affected parties, including representatives of district councils, and of trusts battling the spread of wilding conifers, and they supported the ORC playing a more active role over the issue.

ORC chairman Stephen Woodhead recently warned about the growing scale of the problem, saying 300,000ha of Otago land was already affected and wilding conifers were projected to spread at a rate of 5%- adding about 15,000ha each year.

And the ORC yesterday launched a page on its website, devoted to raising awareness of the issue, and also plans to seek public input through a survey.

Prof Mark, a foundation member of the Mid Dome Wilding Tree Charitable Trust, said he had long made submissions to the regional council over wilding conifers and was pleased it had ”seen the light” over the issue.

The dramatic spread of Pinus contorta at the same location, May 2015. PHOTOS: RICHARD BOWMAN
He praised the positive contribution made by council chief executive Peter Bodeker, and by Mr Woodhead.
Conservation Minister Maggie Barry had also contributed through her criticism of the ORC in September for ”dragging the chain” over the issue.

Three photographs of part of Mid Dome, taken by Environment Southland biosecurity manager Richard Bowman in November 1998, in December 2004 and May 2015, showed the ”explosive” spread of the wilding pines. Other regional councils, including Environment Southland and Environment Canterbury, had already been helping to fight wilding conifer spread and he was pleased the Otago council was now ”coming on board”.

Wilding conifers were a ”major national issue” and a big regional problem in Otago.

Further wilding conifer spread needed to be tackled effectively and early in Otago, otherwise the result would be a ”situation that’s almost unmanageable”.