Management of Shotover wilding conifers moves to maintenance only phase

Tuesday 9 April 2024

However, the hard-won milestone comes with a warning not to take a pause on this fast-spreading pest, says ORC Chair Gretchen Robertson.

“Adequate funding is still needed to control seedling regrowth and to control wildings on neighbouring management areas so that wind-blown seed doesn’t re-infest the Shotover management area,” says Cr Robertson.

The Shotover management area consists of about 66,700 hectares in the Mt Aurum, Skippers and Macetown area.

Seeing the Shotover area move to the maintenance only stage is further proof that landscape scale control is achievable, says Cr Robertson, but funding for the work has to be maintained.

Whakatipu Wilding Control Group (WCG) credits the pest control win as a great example of what can be achieved with genuine collaboration involving the past and present efforts of WCG, DOC, QLDC, ORC, LINZ, National Wilding Conifer Control Programme, contractors, community volunteers, landowners, managers and other funding supporters.

The first introduced conifer species were planted near the Skippers cemetery around 1880 with small plantings around buildings soon after.

By the mid-20th century, the spread was becoming apparent, with increasing concerns this iconic landscape, which hosts tens of thousands of visitors annually, would be irreparably changed.

Now, after many years of wilding control, this management unit is moving into a maintenance only phase.

WCG Chairman Grant Hensman says, “It is great to have something to celebrate. This success is due to the extensive, combined efforts of many over the years. No one organisation or person can claim the gold medal for this, but rather we need to mint a truck load of bronzes.”

“The start of the maintenance only phase in this area is due to the removal of all known seeding trees and comes after 16 years of consistent effort. Repeat visits each year, diminishing in intensity, are programmed to mop up residual infestation. This is not without threats to success, chief amongst them budget cuts by government.”

“Future generations should be grateful to the many people involved, but the irony is that when we do our job well, they won’t know what they almost lost and will rightly take as normal un-infested, native flora and fauna, never realising the cost and effort that went into preserving it for them,” he says.

The control programme has overcome significant challenges, such as access points along the 17.4 km historic Skippers Road, hand carved by miners over 140 years ago with sheer cliff faces and steep drops.

All the partners remain committed to protecting these iconic sites into the future.

A couple of tricky jobs left still to tackle near coning wildings. Remnant native beech forest can be seen recovering in the valleys now that wildings have been removed.