Opin­ion: How to tackle weeds

Waiheke Marketplace - - Classi Eds - ANDY SPENCE

Wai­heke has a rep­u­ta­tion of be­ing the sec­ond weed­i­est place on the planet af­ter Hawaii and jok­ingly named ’Weed­heke’ by biose­cu­rity of­fi­cers.

I’m very pleased to see that the Wai­heke Lo­cal Board has de­cided to take a well bal­anced ap­proach to weed con­trol in re­serves on the is­land.

The re­cent method­ol­ogy with­out us­ing her­bi­cides is hav­ing a dis­as­trous ef­fect on the health of na­tive bush.

Tak­ing into due re­gard the con­cerns of those that feel that her­bi­cides are un­ac­cept­able, the board has agreed on an ap­proach that min­imises her­bi­cides us­ing man­ual meth­ods where fea­si­ble and care­fully tar­geted meth­ods of ap­pli­ca­tion oth­er­wise.

Treescape En­vi­ron­men­tal is an ex­cel­lent choice of con­trac­tors that has done such ex­cel­lent work on Ro­toroa restor­ing a very weedy en­vi­ron­ment us­ing a sim­i­lar ap­proach.

Mod­ern day Wai­heke de­vel­oped as a com­mu­nity of farm­ers and more lately hol­i­day bach landown­ers, who, want­ing some quick grow­ing gar­den plants that stood the rigours of ne­glect be­tween vis­its, in­tro­duced tough, drought-tol­er­ant non­na­tive species from South Africa and South Amer­ica.

Th­ese could sur­vive the rigours of sum­mer and lack of care and proved ex­cel­lent ground cover.

Then through lack of at­ten­tion they were al­lowed to grow ram­pant.

As more and more land has been re­tired from farm­ing, so bush has re-grown, in­fested with some of th­ese same weedy species.

As the first ranger at Whakanewha Re­gional Park and later Biose­cu­rity Of­fi­cer for Wai­heke I was in­ti­mately, and of­ten painfully, con­nected with the re­sults of this first hand.

Some of the park neigh­bours and oth­ers on the is­land who were firmly against the use of her­bi­cides made a gal­lant but short term ef­fort to tackle the le­gion of weeds by hand.

One landowner I re­mem­ber per­se­vered much longer than most un­til ac­knowl­edg­ing that it was fu­tile. He said, ‘‘you can’t do this by hand, it’s just too much.’’

From that time on a va­ri­ety of other ap­proaches were tried and adopted.

Some­times it was sim­ply bet­ter, more ef­fec­tive and eas­ier to clear all veg­e­ta­tion and start again, re­plant­ing with na­tives as was done very suc­cess­fully in many ar­eas of Whakanewha and then min­i­mal use of her­bi­cides was needed to con­trol the re­growth of weeds.

While I was there, this work was car­ried out dili­gently and me­thod­i­cally with great re­sults.

Now many years of a com­bi­na­tion of sheer per­sis­tence and care­ful use of tar­geted her­bi­cide use the park is in many ar­eas sub­stan­tially weed free.

Some weeds are best tack­led man­u­ally in the main, such as moth plant.

Oth­ers, like climb­ing as­para­gus for in­stance, can­not be suc­cess­fully con­trolled by hand - un­less you are will­ing to pro­vide the funds, and the labour, to sieve ev­ery inch of ground to re­move the nu­mer­ous tu­bers.

In be­tween th­ese ex­tremes are a wide range of op­tions.

A skilled and care­ful weed con­trol spe­cial­ist un­der­stands th­ese is­sues and adapts tech­niques and method­olo­gies to suit the weeds and cir­cum­stances, us­ing man­ual meth­ods where fea­si­ble, fol­lowed by tar­geted her­bi­cide ap­pli­ca­tion and sprays where there is no other rea­son­able op­tion.

With­out the abil­ity to use of com­bi­na­tion of method­olo­gies, the weed prob­lems on Wai­heke are go­ing to be in­sur­mount­able.

The op­tion of ‘do noth­ing’ is not one that any en­vi­ron­men­tally con­scious per­son would choose. Unat­tended weed prob­lems do not go away, they sim­ply con­tinue to spread more densely and fur­ther.

Thank you again, Wai­heke Lo­cal Board, for hav­ing the wis­dom to take a bal­anced ap­proach.

And for em­ploy­ing skilled con­trac­tors to re­store Wai­heke’s pre­cious re­serves.

Andy Spence lives in One­tangi and is a di­rec­tor of Cut ‘n Paste her­bi­cide.

‘‘The op­tion of 'do noth­ing' is not one that any en­vi­ron­men­tally con­scious per­son would choose.’’ - Andy Spence.

Andy Spence in the days when he was a Whakanewha Park ranger. GILL AL­COCK

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