Gorse and Broom 

Originally from Europe, gorse and broom were brought to our country by settlers in the 1800s for use as hedge plants. They soon spread from these original plantings and began invading the landscape.


Gorse competes strongly with young trees in commercial forests and hampers access for people and livestock. Areas overrun with gorse make excellent havens for pests such as rabbits and possums and in dry periods can become a real fire hazard.

Broom is an aggressive plant which survives at up to 1500 metres above sea level and grows almost anywhere.

Dense, spiny and a dull greyish-green, gorse is a perennial shrub which grows up to two and a half metres high and three metres in diameter. The stems and branches are green to brown, woody when mature and armed with sharp spines up to five centimetres long. Its vivid, yellow pea-like flowers are hard to miss in late summer and again in late winter.

Broom is a dark green deciduous shrub which grows up to three metres tall, with smallish leaves and bright yellow flowers. Flowers appear in early spring and develop into pods by summer.

Management and control 

The Pest Plant Management Plan for Otago lists gorse and broom as plants for total control in areas designated as gorse and broom free. Land occupiers in these areas are required to destroy all gorse and broom on their land.

Elsewhere in Otago, occupiers on rural zoned land have an obligation to maintain a ten metre strip free from gorse and broom on their side of a boundary of a neighbouring property, where the adjacent property is substantially clear of these pest plants within 50 metres.

Control tends be dealing with either single bushes or small isolated infestations. The options are to dig out, cut down and treat the stump, spray or apply Tordon 2G granules.

Grazing is not a preferred option as it tends to provide short term control only without completely eradicating the plant. Plants are still given the opportunity to grow and produce seed, and may easily continue to spread.

Gorse and Broom Free Areas

Included in the Pest Plant Management Plan for Otago are large tracts of land that have been designated gorse and broom free. These areas are mainly higher altitude areas or tussock country that have never had a major history of these pest plants. In total, the gorse and broom free areas incorporate 53% of the Otago region which equates to 16,784 square kilometres.

Both gorse and broom are highly invasive pest plants. Otago's high country and tussock grasslands are unique. Apart from isolated patches or individual plants, the Gorse and Broom Free Areas are still largely free of these pest plants. The objective of including these areas in the Plan is to ensure they remain clear of gorse and broom. An invasion of these plants would greatly affect grazing, biodiversity and the landscape.

While gorse is invasive in many areas, it tends to be less vigorous at higher altitudes. Broom is especially aggressive and grows in a wide range of habitats. Broom has been found in Otago thriving at altitudes of 1500 metres above sea level. Both gorse and broom seed may lie dormant in the soil for 40 - 80 years. Because of the long-lived seed bank, monitoring and control will be required for many years.

View our factsheet on Gorse and Broom

Maps of gorse and broom free areas 

A1 Makaora (including upper Lakes Wanaka and Hawea) (1 MB).
A2 Matukituki and upper Lake Wakatipu (1 MB).
A3 Dunstan and St Bathans (1 MB).
A4 Lake Wakatipu and Nevis (834 KB).
A5 Cromwell, Manuherikia, Roxburgh and upper Taieri (1 MB).
A6 Kakanui and Rock & Pillar (2 MB).
A7 Clutha (below Roxburgh) and Lammerlaw (1 MB).

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