Tech­nol­ogy strikes in­vader trees

The bat­tle against Wakatipu’s wild­ing pines gets cash boost Smith takes closer look

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS - By SUE FEA

Con­ser­va­tion Min­is­ter Nick Smith is singing the praises of the Wakatipu Wild­ing Conifer Con­trol Group and the aerial ad­vances be­ing used in the dis­trict to tackle the re­lent­less in­fes­ta­tion of wild­ing pines. Mr Smith will ad­dress the group’s an­nual meet­ing tonight where he will pay trib­ute to the ‘‘very in­no­va­tive’’, tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances be­ing ap­plied to the prob­lem in the dis­trict. Smart prac­ti­cal ad­vances within the Wakatipu’s he­li­copter in­dus­try in ap­ply­ing aerial tech­nol­ogy meant the dis­trict was the most ad­vanced in the coun­try, he said. Some 80,000ha of wild­ing conifers were chang­ing the face of one of the coun­try’s most iconic land­scapes and the prob­lem had been spi­ralling out of con­trol since the 1970s. The Wakatipu’s more ef­fi­cient tech­nol­ogy had been ‘‘a real break­through’’. A 1ha block that cost $4000 and took two days to clear on land us­ing hard labour took nine min­utes and cost $650 us­ing aerial sprays, Mr Smith said. A mil­lion dol­lars is be­ing in­vested into fight­ing wild­ing pines across the basin this year with over­seas back­pack­ers among those vol­un­teer­ing on the bat­tle’s front­line. Wakatipu Wild­ing Conifer Con- trol Group chair­man Peter Wills­man said 70,000 wild­ing conifers have come off the face of the Re­mark­ables alone dur­ing the past six years. The group will re­port tonight on the mas­sive work done and planned. About 300 peo­ple have reg­is­tered to help the fight at vol­un­teer days staged around the basin, the next of which is set down for Novem­ber 18. The Gov­ern­ment have stepped up to the mark with a $900,000 con­tri­bu­tion for the next two years, via a Land In­for­ma­tion New Zealand (LINZ) $450,000 con­tri­bu­tion this year. Cen­tral Lakes Trust has pledged 40 per­cent of any money the group raises up to $1 mil­lion for each of the next five years. The Queen­stown Lakes Dis­trict Coun­cil stumps up $128,000 an­nu­ally and Sky­line is in­vest­ing $50,000 a year. Run­hold­ers were also do­ing their bit, con­tribut­ing he­li­copter time, con­trac­tors, sprays and equip­ment. Con­ser­va­tion Min­is­ter Nick Smith is ‘‘very keen to get his boots dirty’’ and will tour the site of the pro­posed $170m Fiord­land mono­rail first-hand to­day. He stressed that he will not be mak­ing a de­ci­sion on the pro­posed 41km mono­rail to link Queen­stown and Fiord­land Na­tional Park this week. But he was ‘‘in­ter­ested in pro­gress­ing to a de­ci­sion by the end of the year’’. Mr Smith said he wanted a good look at the site and would spend to­day in­spect­ing part of the route by land as well as from the air. He will also meet mono­rail con­ces­sion hear­ings com­mis­sioner Graeme Ayres and rep­re­sen­ta­tives for the ap­pli­cant, River­stone Hold­ings. He will join the 125th Milford Track an­niver­sary tramp tomorrow and open the new Suther­land Falls track.

Photo: SUE FEA

Dig­ging in: Wakatipu Wild­ing Conifer Con­trol Group chair­man Peter Wills­man with some of the seedlings that need tack­ling in the basin.

Nick Smith.

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