Collaborative wilding pine operation to protect Benmore Peninsula

Work will begin shortly to remove invasive wilding pine infestations on the Benmore Peninsula. The work is funded by the National Wilding Conifer Control Programme (NWCCP).

Meridian Energy and Land Information New Zealand separately own and manage adjoining areas of land on the peninsula. We will be overseeing the work on their behalf, which will be carried out by forestry company, PF Olsen.

The aim is to harvest the pines for timber, which in turn reduces the cost of control. 

Work will begin late August 2020 and is expected to finish in February 2021.

Removal of wilding pines essential to protecting the land

Regional Leader of Biosecurity, Graham Sullivan, describes the importance of addressing the scourge of wilding pines:

“Canterbury is badly affected by the spread of wilding pines throughout alpine catchments and foothills; currently, they represent our most serious pest threat,” he said. 

Meridian’s Renewable Development Programme Manager, Mark Harris, says removing the pines is a first step towards returning the ecosystem to its natural state.

“At the beginning of September, we’ll start replanting the area on our land with a mix of trial plots of eco-sourced tōtara and sterile pinus attenuate, so unlike wilding pines, there will be no risk of seed spread.

"This is better for the environment, and in the long term it will leave a lasting legacy for future generations,” Harris said.

The removal of wilding pines is essential to protect native biodiversity, land value and iconic landscapes, including the Mackenzie Basin.

Why are wilding pines a problem?

Without attention, wilding pines can overwhelm native landscapes, resulting in a crushing loss of biodiversity and the change from a complex ecosystem to a monoculture.

Around 1.8 million hectares of New Zealand’s unique natural environment is known to be infested with wilding pines.

Lake Benmore, pre wilding pines infestation

The key problematic factors are:

  • Dense growth: they take the sun, water and nutrients that other plants need, forcing native plants and animals out. Unlike native New Zealand bush – where a wide variety of species exist together – wilding pines produce forests which largely support only other wilding pines.
  • Easily spread: once wilding pines start to produce cones, the seeds within them are quickly and effectively spread by the wind.
  • Economic damage: wilding pines cost New Zealand millions of dollars every year in losses to primary production, resources spent on control and environmental costs.

National Wilding Conifer Control Programme

The National Wilding Conifer Control Programme was established in 2016, to deliver a 15-year strategy to reduce wilding pine infestations to a locally-manageable level.

Over the programme's first three years, Biosecurity New Zealand and its partners (including Department of Conservation, LINZ, the Defence Force, and regional and local councils) have completed $22 million of work, searched and controlled more than 1.6 million hectares of land, and protected 3 million hectares of our most at-risk landscape from invasion.

It recently received $100 million in the 2020 budget towards its work.

More information