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.

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