Weeds could ‘take over’ maunga

Central Leader - - FRONT PAGE - JAMES PASLEY

If sheep and cat­tle are ban­ished from Auck­land’s vol­canic cones weeds could flour­ish, an ecol­o­gist says.

The days of live­stock graz­ing on Auck­land’s vol­ca­noes are num­bered as Auck­land’s Maunga Au­thor­ity plans to re­move live­stock to pro­tect and re­store bio­di­ver­sity.

Bruce Burns, an ecol­o­gist at the Univer­sity of Auck­land, said he did not think it was a bad idea to re­move live­stock from the cones, but he was con­cerned about how the Maunga Au­thor­ity will go about tak­ing care of the cones once the live­stock has gone.

‘‘There’s go­ing to be longer grass, and one thing they’re go­ing to have a lot more of is weeds,’’ Burns said.

‘‘Auck­land’s one of the most weedy cities and if they re­move the cat­tle there’s an army of weeds just wait­ing to take over.’’

Slightly more dra­matic is the height­ened fire risk on the dor­mant cones.

In June three to­tara and six po­hutukawa were planted on One Tree Hill’s sum­mit as a step to re­store some of the cone’s his­tory. Three maunga are grazed by cat­tle in­clud­ing Mt Welling­ton/ Maun­garei, Mt Rich­mond/ Otahuhu and Man­gere Moun­tain and two by sheep in­clud­ing One Tree Hill/Maun­gakiekie and Mt St John/Te Kopuke.

Graz­ing cat­tle have al­ready been been cleared from Mt Hob­son/Ohin­erau in Re­muera.

With cat­tle gone, kikuyu -a type of trop­i­cal grass - can grow to a sig­nif­i­cant hight, which dries out in sum­mer and be­comes a fire haz­ard, Burns said.

‘‘There have been a num­ber of fires on cones through­out his­tory, only a few years ago Mt Welling- ton had a fire be­cause of long grass.’’

Even if weeds and fire haz­ards were well man­aged the cones them­selves would look very dif­fer­ent.

The cones will go from highly grazed, man­i­cured ar­eas of grass­land to be­come far more wild with much more di­verse veg­e­ta­tion, Burns said.

Fed­er­ated Farm­ers’ Auck­land pres­i­dent An­drew Ma­clean said the cones were not sig­nif­i­cant from a pro­duc­tion point of view, so ban­ning live­stock would not be a loss for farm­ing.

Sheep graze One Tree Hill.

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