June 29, 2018
Winter update from the National Wilding Conifer Control Programme
NO 3: WINTER 2018
Impressive progress made
The National Wilding Conifer Control Programme has reached the end of its second year, and already the progress that has been made is truly impressive. Across massive tracts of New Zealand’s iconic tussock, and mountain landscapes, where only a short time ago the trained eye would have spotted the march of early wilding conifer invaders, there are now virtually no wilding conifers to be seen. In fact, in most cases it is hard to believe that there was ever wilding conifer problem in the first place!
The need to be able to show not only the substantial control that has been undertaken, but also the further spread that has been prevented by acting early, is a key challenge for the programme. With this in mind the team at LINZ have been working with partners to compile a national view of wilding conifer infestation and control activities. The various components of this are starting to come together and we are now starting to see the Wilding Conifer Information System’s exciting potential to inform decision making and reporting.
The focus for the Programme over the coming year is on completing Phase I control work across the 19 areas already in the Programme. It is also now an opportunity for us to look ahead to what improvements are required in the lead up to Phase II of the Programme.
Wilding Conifer Group – a stakeholders’ initiative
At the end of May, comments closed on the proposal to set up an independent stakeholder-led wilding conifer group - thank you to all submitters. Given the broad support for the proposal, an Interim Committee was formed to guide the independent group’s establishment.
As reported our Autumn update, the Programme’s stakeholder advisory group and the New Zealand Wilding Conifer Management Group (NZWCG) committee worked together on the proposal. On 7 June, the national programme’s governance group agreed to dissolve its stakeholder advisory group to make way for the new proposed group. The working title is the “Wilding Conifer Group”.
Links to the Terms of Reference for the Group’s Interim Committee, and its list of members are posted on wildingconifers.org.nz. Richard Bowman, from the wilding trusts community (and formerly of regional government), has been nominated as Interim Chair.
A Wilding Conifer Group Coordinator will be appointed for a term of 12 months and recruiting is now underway. Is this you or someone you know? Help spread the word! The Coordinator role is a half time, paid position with flexible hours and location. Applications close 5pm on Monday 9 July 2018, and links to the job description and other details are posted on wildingconifers.org.nz.
Final decisions on the Wilding Conifer Group’s establishment and programme of work will take place at the Annual General Meeting of the NZWCMG in October 2018.
Good progress in Kaimanawa
Wilding conifer control work in the Central North Island mountains is highly weather-dependant, with almost all work carried out being helicopter-based (either surveys or herbicide application).
Programme partners made the most of the few still days in Autumn to finish planned work in the Kaimanawa Management Unit (MU). Most of the operational areas have been under active management for some time, and the infestations are now much reduced from the early days of control work.
The results of active and sustained control efforts can be seen in the completed Otupae operational area. In 2017-18, 466 trees were found and controlled here, of which only 6 were coning – compared with 2014, where Horizons Regional Council found and controlled 1036 trees, of which 12 were coning.
The northern part of the Kaimanawa MU is managed by the Taupo office of the Department of Conservation. This year highlighted the success of ongoing treatment to reduce the infestation to only a few scattered trees, with control costing only 30-50% of what had previously been spent.
However there are control challenges in this mountainous region, particularly in Hawkes Bay’s Kaweka Ranges, where contorta and other spread-prone species were planted for land stabilisation. DOC’s Hawkes Bay office is running the operation to push back the spread from these dense and mature areas. The aim is to regain as much open country as possible and then to begin reducing the extent of source trees.
The dangers of operating in this environment have been reflected on, with sadness, by national programme partner Horizons, and many others involved in wilding conifer control. One of the programme partner landowners, Renata Apatu the co-owner of Ngamatea Station, passed away due to injuries sustained from a helicopter crash while undertaking unrelated farm surveillance.
Spring will bring detailed programme planning, with an aim to start early on control operations in the denser areas of the Kawekas.
Good progress made in the Kaimanawa Management Unit.
Spotlight on Marlborough
National Wilding Conifer Control Programme efforts
The national programme supports wilding control in the Molesworth area, one of the country’s most wilding conifer infested regions.
In recent months, Aerial Basal Bark Application (ABBA) control wrk was done over a very large area in Dillon, McRae and Clarence – mostly on scattered trees. There has also been a focus on the Yarra area, which had to be tackled by dividing it into six smaller blocks (because of the vast amount of work involved).
In the Tarndale, control operations were carried out with an excavator which mechanically removes the entire tree with a clam bucket attachment. An assessment is planned on the cost effectiveness and efficacy of this method in flatter country, and if found worthwhile, then this method may be added to the control operations ‘toolkit’ for the region.
Work by wilding trusts
South Marlborough Landscape Restoration Trust have had a successful year working in the Awatere management sector. Working from Aotea up the valley to the southern side Mt Gladstone/Upcot Saddle. A number of trees/infestations have been discovered throughout these operations, and some have been in locations the contractor has been unable to safely control. This operational area has been mapped and will be put into the new Wilding Conifer Information System managed by LINZ as a part of the national programme.
Marlborough Sounds Trust is also very active, with a wide range of work from maintenance in many operational sectors in the Inner Queen Charlotte Sound, and initial control in the Outer Pelorus. The work plan for 18/19 will include Wharehunga Bay, also tying in operations along with the Cook 250 Trust.
Recording & reporting system update
The Wilding Conifer Information System (WCIS) holds information about infestations, operational areas and activities undertaken by the National Wilding Conifer Control Programme and its partners, and can be used for improving information sharing, collaboration and success of the Programme.
The System will give us a more accurate and detailed picture of the wilding problem across the country.
Throughout April, Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) held training sessions in Taupo, Christchurch, and Queenstown for Fund Managers, Contract Managers & Principals, and others who'll be involved in recording data.
On top of this, there was an additional training session in Wellington, focussed on ‘Insights’ - the reporting element of the Information System.
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