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Wilding Pine Control Work at Sugarloaf, Lowburn

Updated: Aug 2, 2022

The removal of the wilding pines from council reserve land near Lowburn has been funded by a joint partnership between Central Otago District Council, Ministry of Primary Industries, Otago Regional Council and the National Wilding Conifer Control programme. The work is coordinated by the Central Otago Wilding Conifer Group, a not-for-profit organisation committed to the control of wilding conifers and the protection of natural New Zealand landscapes. Researchers describe wilding pines as ‘an economic and environmental disaster’ covering 1.5 million hectares, and threatening a further 7.5m hectares of production and iconic conservation land in the next 30 years. 1) Why do we need to remove the trees? The seeds from wilding conifers can blow 20km or more making their dispersal much wider than most other common weeds. However, most conifer seed remains viable in the ground for only up to 5 years, making it one of the easier weeds to control should we choose to do so, much easier than gorse and broom where the seeds last for up to 70 years. The Lowburn conifers were an example of trees planted in the wrong place, and as a result there are seedlings popping up on both private and public land where they are not wanted. To prevent the Lowburn hillsides from turning into a pine forest, the removal of the seed source was necessary. If you are considering planting on your land, here are some helpful tips on trees that are better suited to our region, and which don’t pose a threat to our natural landscape. 2) Aren’t trees good for the environment? Trees are vital to our ecosystem. Often known as the ‘lungs of the Earth’, they play a key role in storing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen. In addition, they are key to stabilising soil, protecting waterways, and reducing air temperature, humidity, and flooding. HOWEVER, wilding conifers are one species of tree which, in our environment, pose more downsides than they provide benefit in Co2 absorption. They suck the life out of our water-tables and reduce the flow in our waterways, they increase the threat from wildfires, they spread further and faster than most other common weeds, and they displace more desirable species. In our environment in Central they become a monoculture from which they are unlikely to succeed beyond. In the wrong place, a single tree can spawn more than 1000 seedlings in one season. There are some incredible resources available for anyone wanting to look at the most suitable planting option for their land here.

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