"Co-operative Conservation - A Case Study of Action and Need"
Our Urgent Challenge
Mid Dome stands sentinel above the crossroads that mark halfway between Invercargill, Queenstown and Fiordland National Park. In its shadow lie some of Southland and Otago's most valuable and vulnerable high country tussock and pastoral lands.
Lodgepole pines (Pinus contorta) were planted on 250 ha of Mid Dome between the 1950s and 1980s for erosion control. Strong prevailing nor-westerly winds make Mid Dome a perfect takeoff point for the up to 1.5 million seeds these wildings produce per hectare every year. Offspring from these very light, winged seeds have been found 40km downwind of Mid Dome and up to altitudes of 1400m. The shade wilding pines produce eliminate most other plants beneath them. As a result, 475 ha of Mid Dome is now totally covered by wildings and another 13,000 ha downwind are seriously infested. Mid Dome's wildings, stunted and difficult to access, have no commercial value as timber or firewood and hold little more global-warming carbon than the snow tussock they displace.
These unplanned and unmanaged wilding forests grow much faster than our native species. They threaten to totally change our southern landscapes forever. The future of native animals and plants living in these landscapes looks bleak. Productive farmland and recreational opportunities - like mountain biking, horse riding, tramping and 4WD - would also disappear beneath the wildings’ impenetrable monoculture.
Costs of control increase exponentially and our chances of success drastically diminish each year. These wildings have the potential to be southern New Zealand's most serious ecological disaster.
If not eradicated, it is predicted Mid Dome wildings will totally overwhelm 61,000 ha of high country tussock and pastoral land and infest a further 100,000 ha by 2053. If we lose this wildings battle, this land has no long-term ecological, economic or recreational future.
The primary goal of the Mid Dome Wilding Trees Charitable Trust is to eradicate wilding pines from Mid Dome and surrounding land to the point where any re-growth can be managed by landholders. This will protect the ecological, economic, landscape and recreational values of over 100,000 ha of iconic southern high country pastoral and tussock land.
The Job Ahead
To achieve this, the Trust has formulated a 12-year Ecological Restoration Project. The only viable way to tackle the most dense 475 ha (2,500 to 5,000 trees per hectare) is by aerial spraying and chainsaws. For more scattered infestations, ground control techniques including chainsaws, scrub bars, chemicals and hand pulling are being used to remove the wildings and allow natives to regenerate.
Achievements to Date
Tremendous collaboration between the local community, volunteers, Department of Conservation, Environment Southland, Land Information New Zealand and the Mid Dome Wilding Trees Management Group has already resulted in:
• Strong community and local, regional and central government co-operation.
• Formation of the Mid Dome Wilding Trees Charitable Trust.
• Development of the Trust’s Ecological Restoration Project to eradicate Mid Dome's wildings.
• $5 million pledged over the project’s 12 years
• Initial wilding clearance work over 60,000 ha
• Start made on spray control of core wilding area
• Ongoing research into wilding control techniques.
• Wilding management of 40,000ha has been handed back to Landowners
This Year's Goals
The Trust’s programme will focus on continuing to bring in the infestation boundaries and targeting strategic seed sources, in conjunction with building and maintaining relationships with all landowners involved. Subject to funding; work will include:
• Ground control will target the removal of strategically sited stands of trees.
• Aerial spraying will continue based on the results of ongoing spray trials
• Continuing public education about wilding spread (a secondary purpose of the Trust) through volunteer work days, newsletters, advising landowners about the best methods of managing any regrowth.
The 12-Year Wilding Tree Eradication Project:
Phase 1 Halt the Spread (2007-10):
Ground clearance of scattered wildings to rein in the infestation. Treatment of primary (planted) and secondary (wilding spread) seed sources by aerial spraying of densest infestations with emphasis on those stands closest to the eastern boundary (down wind) of the current infestation. Removal of large trees from exposed ridge “take off” sites.
Phase 2 Consolidate Gains (2010 -2013):
Aerial spot spraying of remaining dense clumps and clearing secondary seed source sites. Ground control will focus on clearing scattered infestations not covered in Phase 1. By the end of this phase, all infested areas will have been aerially sprayed or cleared by ground crews at least once.
Phase 3 Treat & Prevent Re-invasion (2013-2016):
Repeat aerial spraying of any remaining clusters. Ground clearance of any new seedlings within the area covered in Phase 1.
Phase 4 Mop Up & Achieve Control (2015-2018):
Ground clearance of all seedlings from areas cleared in earlier phases as required.
All control work and the recovery of native species will be monitored. This information and ongoing research will continually refine the project’s work programme and benefit other wilding projects throughout New Zealand.
Your Support is Vital
To complete this 12-year project will cost $8 million. Annual costs, from $290,000 to $1,500,000, will vary with the area to be covered (depending on extent, wilding density, weather and accessibility) and control methods used.
The Trust needs additional annual funds of $800,000 until 2019 to achieve the project. The total shortfall for the 12-year project is $6.5 million.
• Biodiversity Condition Fund $54,000
• NZ Lottery Grants Board $250,000
Ongoing funding of $5 million has already been pledged of which $2.5 million has been spent.
• Land Information New Zealand (LINZ)
Initial contribution of $300,000 then $115,000 per year
• Environment Southland (ES)
Initial contribution of $300,000 then $50,000 per year
• Department of Conservation (DOC)
$193,456 per year
The Trust’s ongoing relationships with ES, LINZ and DOC are secured through a formal Statement of Intent.
The Mid Dome Wilding Trees Charitable Trust, established in 2006, grew from a management group set up a decade earlier by local farmers, environmentalists, and local and central government.
The Trust contracts DOC as project manager. Research by Scion (formerly Forest Research) will continue to be used alongside the Trust’s own research to ensure the project is cost effective with minimal damage to the native tussock cover. Environment Southland provides administrative support.
Trustees(left to right): Michael Skerrett, Ali Timms, Geoffrey Young, Alison Broad, Sir Alan Mark.
"We welcome your support in a conservation project that really can make a difference"
Our Project as at Year 6, 2013
Applicant Mid Dome Wilding Trees Charitable Trust
We will eradicate wilding pines from Mid Dome and surrounding land to protect the ecological, economic, landscape and recreational values of more than 100,000 hectares of iconic southern high country pastoral and tussock land.
Total Budget $8 million needed until 2019
Remaining Funds Pledged $2.5 million
Project shortfall $5.5 million
Applicant Status Incorporated Charitable Trust
Charities Commission: Certificate No. CC10286.
Inland Revenue Department: IRD 95-390-218
Project Timeline 2007 to 2019
The Trust’s four-phase, 12 year Wilding Tree Eradication Programme has the full support of the Mid Dome and wider Southland community, iwi and all agencies involved.