There are so­lu­tions, for those will­ing to talk

Otago Daily Times - - OPINION - Jim Childer­stone, of Ham­p­den, is a forestry con­sul­tant.

GER­RARD Eck­hoff has made a valid point (ODT, 8.1.19). It gets ex­tremely hard to dis­cuss is­sues with peo­ple or or­gan­i­sa­tions with fixed views or agen­das.

Par­tic­u­larly if the is­sue is even slightly con­tro­ver­sial.

He par­tic­u­larly tar­gets the 1080 de­bate.

There ap­pears to be lit­tle com­pro­mise be­tween the com­bat­ants.

And it gets per­sonal.

He may as well have men­tioned the hard­ened at­ti­tudes re­gard­ing the bat­tle con­trol­ling the spread of wild­ing conifers. To spray or not to spray, pest plant or re­source.

As one who has been in­volved with con­trol and use of wild­ing conifers as a re­source for more than 40 years, I find it hard to get into a prac­ti­cal de­bate on the prob­lem.

It gets to be too emo­tive.

All sorts of neg­a­tives are pro­mul­gated by those in­volved, such as the wild­ing conifer con­trol groups:

That these rapidly re­gen­er­at­ing species soak up rain­fall, sup­press growth of other species, put paid to bird and an­i­mal life, are not pretty to look at and are detri­men­tal to farm­ing.

In fact said to de­ter tourists, ex­pect­ing to view open tus­sock coun­try and na­tive bush from their Queen­stown ho­tel bal­cony.

In re­ply to ar­ti­cles and let­ters I have writ­ten on the sub­ject, there has been lit­tle or no re­sponse.

It seems there is a con­sis­tent mind block among con­trol groups or their ad­her­ents.

The Wakatipu Wild­ing Con­trol Group has man­aged to at­tract some lo­cal high rollers in sup­port, such as re­tired fi­nancier Eion Edgar and Real Jour­ney’s di­rec­tor Bryan Hutchins.

There had been lit­tle de­bate on the sub­ject ex­cept for the 2017 ref­er­en­dum re­gard­ing the pre­ma­ture felling of the Coronet For­est.

Those with forestry ex­pe­ri­ence (a mi­nor­ity) were well out­voted when sub­mis­sions were called for.

Lit­tle had been forth­com­ing from the green lobby or For­est & Bird.

This in spite of the wide­spread use of chem­i­cal spray­ing of in­fested ar­eas.

The va­ri­ety of chem­i­cals used has still not been fully de­vel­oped to tar­get specif­i­cally nee­dle­type fo­liage.

Thus spray­ing young outlier seedlings (which at one time were con­trolled through live­stock graz­ing) are not ad­vised, as it can af­fect na­tive species.

Spray­ing is car­ried out mainly on full canopy trees, said to be the most cost­ef­fec­tive method.

Oth­er­wise it’s up to paid ground crew with knap­sack sprayers, but some ar­eas are un­reach­able.

Or vol­un­teers, which at least gets peo­ple out and about and mak­ing a so­cial day of it.

I’m all for it, hav­ing pulled wild­ing Dou­glas fir while trail­blaz­ing tracks around Ben Lomond.

As Eck­hoff puts it, it’s im­pos­si­ble to dis­cuss or have a con­ver­sa­tion with peo­ple with fixed views.

And up in the Wakatipu, the vast ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion would have lit­tle un­der­stand­ing of forestry in gen­eral.

What con­cerns me is the mil­lions of dol­lars be­ing al­lo­cated through tax and ratepay­ers, and sundry or­gan­i­sa­tions, in what is turn­ing out to be an end­less bat­tle for con­trol/elim­i­na­tion.

And the oxy­moron is that mil­lions more dol­lars are be­ing al­lo­cated to grow more trees (ref the Pro­duc­tiv­ity Com­mis­sion).

A fal­lacy that seems to be pro­mul­gated by con­ser­va­tion­ists is that wild­ings have no com­mer­cial value.

Many houses in the Wakatipu area were built us­ing wild­ing Dou­glas fir, Cor­si­can pine and larch milled in the area, much of it through my own por­ta­ble mill back in the late 1970s.

Both Cor­si­can and lodge­pole pine were in de­mand by Great South­ern treat­ment plants due to the high­den­sity stiff­ness of these in­va­sive species.

There is also scope for residue to be con­verted into biomass for heat­ing as well as the ex­trac­tion of es­sen­tial oils.

Also, un­der the emis­sion trad­ing scheme car­bon cred­its, there is po­ten­tial in­come if wild­ings can be reg­is­tered.

Enough, ac­cord­ing to one forester, to fund com­plete con­trol of outlier spread of all species.

This could be one al­ter­na­tive to spend­ing pub­lic money on a vir­tu­ally no­win bat­tle.

The other, as ad­vo­cated by many ex­pe­ri­enced foresters, is con­trol through forestry man­age­ment sys­tems.

That in­cludes in­come from har­vest op­er­a­tions, where pos­si­ble, part of which is al­lo­cated to outlier con­trol.

Al­though the Queen­stown Lakes Dis­trict Coun­cil tends to play this down, small­scale se­lect stem and coupe har­vest op­er­a­tions on Ben Lomond have boosted coun­cil in­come in the past.

One log­ging op­er­a­tion nearly 20 years ago on a lower ter­race in­volv­ing ap­prox­i­mately 2ha of clear fell and se­lect stem re­moval net­ted the coun­cil $176,000.

There had been sev­eral coupe har­vests on other ter­races giv­ing a fi­nan­cial re­turn for what had now de­vel­oped into an amenity for­est back­drop to the town­ship.

Hav­ing once owned sev­eral hectares of wild­ing trees (mostly Cor­si­can pine) at Close­burn, I have con­sis­tently con­sid­ered them as a re­source.

Part of this block I re­planted with na­tive shrub­bery (co­pros­mas, pit­tospo­rum) and beech va­ri­eties.

How­ever, I left some larch for colour, a species, which also pro­vides a back­drop dur­ing the Ar­row­town Au­tumn Fes­ti­val, that could be in for the chop.

Back in the 1950s to 1980s, sev­eral of these in­va­sive species were in­tro­duced into ero­sion­prone high coun­try in Can­ter­bury, namely, dwarf moun­tain pine (P. mugo), lodge­pole (P. con­torta), Cor­si­can (P. ni­gra), pon­derosa, Dou­glas fir and Euro­pean larch among about 30 species of conifers. It was a 30­year Forestry Re­search pro­gramme.

And it worked, prob­a­bly too well. It pre­vented hill­sides end­ing up in the Waimakariri trib­u­taries dur­ing storm events. It sta­bilised slip ar­eas and built up lit­ter for re­gen­er­at­ing some na­tive species.

As Ger­ald Eck­hoff says, there are al­ter­na­tives. Let’s talk about it.

A

PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY

Blasted . . . Sprayed wild­ing pines in a up­per Sho­tover River gorge in 2014.

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