Friday, February 11, 2011


We have just returned from an brief (overnight) visit to Akaroa. It takes just over an hour of travel from Christchurch via Waihora, Lake Forsyth and Little River. We loved the place with it's numerous Catagory 1 historic buildings and various cafe's. Luckily, the village has escaped serious damage from the recent earthquakes largely because most buildings are of wooden construction.

As I always do I headed up for the hills along a walking track that assends directly behind the village on Rue Bulgarie. The trail rises up steep roads that eventually give way to a grassy trail that heads up to a saddle pass over to the next valley. What superb scenery! The run-down farmland has clumps of reverted kanuka and ngaio that create a park-like landscape. I saw rabbit, hares, geese, a hedgehog and a few woolly sheep. There are also healthy numbers of kereru, tui, and bellbirds.

If you were looking for viable farming ventures, forget it. These farms can't even be paying their Council rates and are nothing more than large life style blocks (life sentence more likely). Closer to the village are the remnants of many failed alternative life style ventures, especially protea groves?

It is tourism that provides today's economy at Akaroa. My thoughts were that the Akaroa environs are typical of the wider New Zealand scene. Beautiful scenery and pleasant villages but few signs of viable enterprises.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wilding Pines

You cannot drive the Arthur's Pass Road to Christchurch without noticing the spread of wilding pines between Craigeburn Cutting and Broken River. They now cover thousands of hectares on both sides of the highway from heights of the Craigeburn Ranges to the far side of Flock Hill.

What an absolute disaster in the making! Debbie has heard me grumbling about the lack of action for the past three decades. Where on earth have DOC been? I know of report after report but f'all else! You can see pitiful efforts at clear-cutting the original planted forest, mowing along the Flock Hill flats and a few patches which look like spraying trials.

The situation is now lost, in my opinion. Seedlings will continue spreading across the landscape and only well grazed pasture will be spared. Most seedlings are Pinus contorta which grow to virtually useless forest. There are Douglas fir and Larch seedlings as well which may create an economic forest where they dominate. What alarmed me most were the scattered bushes of Alnus viridis, a shrub introduced to stabilize scree slopes on high slopes. I remember being assured that there was no way they could spread.

I have a personal interest in this wilding issue as I once risked my job in the 1970's by publically questioning the revegetation polices of the Forest Service and Ministry of Works. Being a whistle-blower in those days was not without its risk. Readers may not be aware that wilding pines are a scourge in several other areas on both islands of NZ.

All came from a decade when Forest Service managers believed they could save NZ from "deer-induced erosion" by revegetation of the barren mountains. I know of a helicopter being used to scatter contorta seed along the Tararua, Ruahine and Kaweka Ranges. Just a man sitting with the door off scattering seed from a bag over the slip-faces. Fortunately, the seed cannot have been viable on that occasion.

Now we are left with several major ecological disasters with no feasible solution.