More funding essential to control wilding pines
The success of the work already undertaken at Mid Dome to control wilding conifers rests heavily on further investment from the Government to complete the existing work programme.
The Mid Dome Wilding Trees Charitable Trust has written to all Government ministers with responsibilities relating to wilding conifer control, requesting a substantial funding increase for Phase II of the National Wilding Control Programme in the upcoming 2019/20 Government budget.
Trust chair Ali Ballantine said wilding conifers present the biggest threat to the biodiversity of our tussock grasses.
The Mid Dome project has achieved considerable success battling the aggressive wilding conifers, with a total of $7.6 million invested into control on over 60,000 ha of affected high country land around Mid Dome since the late 1990s, but more needs to be done.
Since 2006 the control work has been led by the Trust in a collaborative partnership with Environment Southland, Department of Conservation, Land Information New Zealand and Ministry for Primary Industries. This has contained the infestation and taken out many of the high-altitude seed sources which are responsible for distant spread. A major boost in funding three years ago as part of a pilot by the Government allowed a huge amount of work to be done to ensure the most effective methods are being used and the funds are being targeted in the best way.
However, while the programme is holding its ground, additional funding is required in order to contain or eradicate the wilding pines.
Ali said the Trust's goal is to remove all of the high-risk seed sources at Mid Dome by 2022 and to have the area fully cleared and handed back to the respective landowners to manage by 2030. This is possible if continued funding can be provided through Phase II of the National Wilding Conifer Control Programme, with the Trust estimating this will require up to $10 million of additional investment over that period.
Environment Southland chief executive Rob Phillips said the value of the work being done by the Trust on Mid Dome cannot be underestimated.
Tackling wilding conifers isn't an easy task, but we can't just ignore it. If we don't invest the necessary funds to get this under control now, we will lose the considerable ground the Trust has already gained.
The additional funding provided by the Government over the last three years has allowed significant progress to be made and we need this to continue so we can complete the work and hand the land back to the landowners for ongoing management.
The need for additional funding to complete the Mid Dome Programme will be the hot topic of conversation at the Trust's volunteer workday to be held on Mid Dome this Saturday 9th March.
This will be attended by nearly 30 keen volunteers who want to see at first-hand what is happening with wilding trees and to make a small but valuable contribution to the tree removal programme. The Trust has held two volunteer work days a year since the early 2000s, and thousands of hours of ground work by volunteers has resulted in the removal of millions of unwanted pine seedlings and saplings.