Natives put in on Von Hill Peninsula

The Walter Peak Land Restoration Project is making progress.

Thousands of native plants have been planted on the Von Hill Peninsula, which will eventually create a microclimate, Real Journeys commercial director Tony McQuilkin says.

The peninsula, which overlooks the Colonel’s Homestead and Walter Peak High Country Farm, now has more than 2500 native plants on it, including kohuhu, olearia, flax, beech and toe toe.

This follows a clearing project spanning the past 10 months.

Over 4000 tonnes of Douglas fir were removed from the peninsula through a combination of spraying, burning and a slash-and-trim process using heavy machinery.

Before clearing, it was like a jungle, trees obstructed views of the lake below and no birdlife was evident in what was a “sterile, dark and unnatural environment”, Mr McQuilkin said.

The planting is the first in a series of “native pockets” which will be created along the Lake Wakatipu shoreline, including at Beach Bay. It was the next step in a 10-year plan, Mr McQuilkin said.

“We are going to intensely plant this area with natives. Over time and when it gets a chance to take hold, it will create its own microclimate, which will encourage other native species and birds. That’s all part of the endgame.”

The beach acted as a natural shelter and would protect the plants until they matured.

It took much “hard graft” getting to this stage, Mr McQuilkin said.

“It looked like a disaster zone. The wheels on the vehicles [used to help clear the wilding pines] were as tall as a man and these trucks were five- foot deep in mud. It was pretty rough. It still isn’t looking 100%, but we will get there. Planting these new natives is the first step to get this land back on track.”

Neill Simpson from the Wakatipu Reforestation Trust was involved in the project.

“We have lost a huge amount of our biodiversity and we are threatened with losing more with the wilding pine issue. They take over and create a monoculture and you lose biodiversity. By doing this we are putting back what was there once before.”

The native plants were “hardy” and as well as increasing birdlife would have a positive impact on the whole environment.

While acknowledging not everyone in the community favoured culling wilding pines, Mr McQuilkin said his generation had an obligation to act.

“I know many people don’t get it, but I do think there is a slow awakening. If we don’t do something now, what will it be like in the future? If we don’t do anything then these trees will continue to spread and we won’t have any natural tussock-covered hills. Controlling it now is the only option,” he said.

Other pockets would be used to graze livestock, but they would be fenced off to protect the native trees from roaming cattle and sheep. The area, which was previously inaccessible, would be open to the public and have a walking track and picnic area.
“That’s next on the the agenda,” Mr McQuilkin said.