8 February 2019
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) teamed up this week with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to survey the spread of wilding pines in the North Island.
Wilding pines, also called conifers, have invaded more than 1.8 million hectares of land from Northland to Southland, according to MPI. They are estimated to spread at about five per cent of that land, or 90,000 hectares, a year. If left unchecked, they compete with native plants and animals for sunlight and water, and can alter the natural landscape.
Air Commodore Tim Walshe, the Air Component Commander, said a Royal New Zealand Air Force A109 helicopter surveyed about 500,000 hectares covering Tongariro National Park, Kaweka Range, Ruahine Range, Kaimanawa Range, Waiouru and Turangi.
MPI Recovery and Pest Management manager John Sanson said the survey aimed to assess the severity of infestation in sensitive, high-country areas invaded by the pines and spot new hotspots that might require control or further investigation.
The NZDF was a key partner in the National Wilding Conifer Control Programme, Mr Sanson said.
“Results from the survey gave us useful insights on the scale of the problem in the central North Island and will enable us to determine future priority areas for wilding conifer control,” he added.
Government agencies including MPI, NZDF, Department of Conservation and Land Information New Zealand are working with local government agencies, forestry and farming industries, landowners and communities to halt the unwanted spread of the trees.
The central North Island operation is the third wilding conifer survey the NZDF has been involved in recently. The other surveys were conducted in Molesworth Station and the central South Island.
The National Wilding Conifer Control Programme has controlled the spread of wilding conifers across about 1.5 million hectares of land and cleared more than 40,000 hectares of dense and moderate infestation.