Tourism operators grow enthusiasm for environment
Weeders in Fiordland have taken more than a hundred thousand invasive plant seeds out of circulation but are asking locals to be on the lookout for seedlings as they start to pop up.
The Fiordland Buffer Zone project, run by Environment Southland and funded by the Department of Conservation through the Jobs for Nature – Mahi mō te Taiao programme, aims to protect Fiordland National Park from the invasive weeds cotoneaster and Darwin’s barberry, while also providing jobs to local tourism operators whose businesses continue to be impacted by Covid-19.
Fiordland weed coordinator Kylie Krippner said, “Cotoneaster and Darwin’s barberry have the potential to outcompete native species in our beautiful national park. This control work allows us to protect one of the largest areas of unmodified vegetation in Aotearoa New Zealand,” Mrs Krippner said.
“The teams have taken hundreds of thousands of seeds out of circulation for the next fruiting season but we are seeing seedlings popping up from control done in 2021. We are asking residents to keep an eye out for any new growth and remove any small seedlings by hand, larger seedlings may need to be treated with chemicals.”
The project involves weed control throughout a 1km buffer zone alongside the Fiordland National Park, from Manapouri in the south to Milford Sound in the north, with the first season of work concentrated on controlling seeding plants.
Mrs Krippner, who is also the chief executive of Wings and Water Te Anau, said members of three teams had found themselves busier than expected as tourism picked back up, which gave Environment Southland the opportunity to bring two more contractors on board to complete high priority areas before the end of the season.
The project has employed 92 people, who have completed more than 12,000 hours of work since it began in 2021.
“The work has been a godsend for most of the tourism based Te Anau contractors, providing flexible hours around regular jobs impacted by Covid-19.”
“This has given them a purpose in such an uncertain time and increased their enthusiasm for the environment and conservation work.”
This season of weeding work finished at the end of May, with the nine contracted teams covering 1600 hectares and 2246 sections in Te Anau.
The weeder teams have covered residential sections in and around Te Anau, along the lakefront between the township and Control Gates, Ivon Wilson Park, between Control Gates and Balloon Loop, the Manapouri foreshore to Pearl Harbour and Home Creek.
“Our contractors working at Balloon Loop, through vigilant surveillance, have found the invasive weeds we are targeting in the Fiordland National Park, so obviously the work we are doing is coming at just the right time to stop the incursion from spreading throughout the park,” Mrs Krippner said.
Select teams will be re-contracted from September through to the end of December, when the project will end.
During the next season, work will focus on finishing active control areas and heading towards Manapouri.
“On the whole we have had an excellent response from the community, with most people pleased to see the invasive weeds gone, and pleased to see something being done on their properties at no cost to themselves,” Mrs Krippner said.