Wilding pines… the wrong trees in the wrong places

06 Jan 2022

A contribution by Celine Derouet, a coordinator of the Kuaotunu Peninsula Wilding Conifer Programme

As beautiful as their scent and presence may seem, wilding pines are a major threat to New Zealand’s native flora and fauna. Unlike managed forestry plantations, wilding pine infestations are a serious weed problem. 

Wilding pines spread wide and fast, infesting and overwhelming our native forests, farmland, coastal landscapes and archeological sites. More than a quarter of New Zealand is at risk of being smothered by wilding pines. Wilding pines are also thirsty and can reduce the flow of a waterway by up to 40 percent. It’s estimated that wilding pine infestations nationally cost $100 million every year in lost productivity, lost water for irrigation and hydroelectricity, lost biodiversity and lost sites of significance for Maori. Simply put, wilding pines are the wrong trees in the wrong places.

In 2016, the National Wilding Conifer Control Programme was created to support and coordinate nationwide efforts by central and local government, industry and the community sector to tackle the growing threat of wilding pine infestations. The programme is a collaboration led by (and funded through) Biosecurity New Zealand, a business unit of the Ministry for Primary Industries.

In the last five years, the government has allocated $137 million to wilding pine control and successfully treated more than 2.2 million hectares across New Zealand. In the Waikato region, Waikato Regional Council has been coordinating 12 different community-led wilding pine projects since 2020. Thanks to a successful funding application of $375,000 made by the Kuaotunu Peninsula Trust, the Kuaotunu Peninsula is part of this effort. Tens of thousands of wilding pines have been controlled since June 2021 on the Kuaotunu Peninsula alone. 

Waikato Regional Council is committed to protecting the native flora and fauna that are affected by wilding infestations and can be disturbed or harmed during wilding pine control operations. In collaboration with Project Kiwi Trust, the Department of Conservation and local community groups, regular kiwi and bat monitoring is being carried out to identify, locate and protect their habitats. While no bat activity has been recorded to date, calls of the Coromandel brown kiwi and the booms of Australasian bitterns have been heard at the Matarangi Bluff Scenic Reserve at the western end of Kuaotunu). The presence of these threatened bird species in our natural reserves is very encouraging and underlines the importance of wilding pine control to protect and enhance suitable habitats.

For more information, please visit wildingpines.nz and waikatoregion.govt.nz/wilding-pines.

Let’s keep it up and get rid of wilding pines.

Pictured: An example of wilding pines infesting and outgrowing the native undergrowth at the Matarangi Bluff Scenic Reserve at the western end of Kuaotunu, where calls of the Coromandel brown kiwi and the booms of Australasian bitterns have been recorded by the Project Kiwi Trust in November 2021.