Technology strikes invader trees
The battle against Wakatipu’s wilding pines gets cash boost Smith takes closer look
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.
Digging in: Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group chairman Peter Willsman with some of the seedlings that need tackling in the basin.