Peter Willsman about to cut down a wilding Scot's pine, and wilding conifers on lower slopes of the Remarkable Range (images; A. Ballance)
A green invasion is sweeping across New Zealand’s drylands, from Marlborough through the McKenzie Country down to inland Otago. In the Wakatipu Basin alone more than 70,000 hectares of previously tussock-covered land is now affected by the spread of wilding trees such as larch, douglas fir, radiatas pine and Pinus contorta.
But in the Queenstown District, the Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Group, or WCG, has the trees in its sights. Its slogan: ‘We don’t hate the trees – we love the scenery.’ The group was founded in 2009, and partners with the Department of Conservation, Queenstown-Lakes District Council, local businesses such as Skyline Queenstown, volunteers and land-owners, with funding from organisations such as Central Lakes Trust. They’ve already cut down or sprayed hundreds of thousands of trees, including 70,000 on the slopes of the Remarkable Range.
Peter Willsman cutting down a wilding Douglas fir and a stand of wilding conifers on the Remarkable Range (images: A. Ballance)
Alison Ballance joins the group’s co-chairs Grant Hensman and Peter Willsman on the road up to the Remarkables Range to find out why – and how – they’ve declared war on the ‘tree weeds’.
View from Queenstown across Lake Wakatipu to the Remarkable Range, showing numerous small and large wilding conifers spreading up Kelvin Heights above the houses (image: A. Ballance)