Wilding control efforts head to the Benmore islands

Source: Land Information NZ

Stopping the ‘alien invasion’ of Lake Benmore’s islands is the focus of a public meeting being held in Omarama on 21 March.

Wilding conifers affect more than 1.8 million hectares of New Zealand and have been spreading at about 5 per cent a year – equivalent to about 90,000ha. Controlling their spread is a priority for agencies and communities, who have banded together to fight them through the National Wilding Conifer Control Programme.

“The wilding conifers on the islands of Lake Benmore are increasing in number and density, and are now starting to spread to the tussock land on either side of the lake. Left unchecked, they will rapidly take over, out-competing native plants and animals, sucking up valuable water resources and blotting our iconic landscapes, so we need to act now,” says Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) Group Manager Crown Property, John Hook.

LINZ is coordinating plans to remove wilding conifers and other exotic invasive pest species from the islands, as part of the national efforts to control their spread and better protect the native species that live there, some of which are nationally threatened or vulnerable.

Mr Hook says the public meeting is a chance for experts to explain plans and methods for control, and for the public to ask questions and seek information. LINZ will also be consulting with local iwi and talking with the Department of Conservation and others to seek their views.

“Surveys of the islands of Lake Benmore show they are of high ecological value, and provide an important habitat for a number of native plants and animals, including the nationally critical Waitaki Broom, as well as geckos, skinks and the at-risk Eastern Falcon.

“We also know the area is of significance to iwi and is a popular destination for fishing and other recreational activities, so we want to ensure it is protected and preserved into the future.”

Proposals for wilding control on the islands include a mix of aerial spraying and operations involving people on the ground felling trees where required. The focus is on using a combination of methods which most effectively deal with the wilding threat, while also protecting important native species and minimising any impact on the lake environment and on public use.

Longer term, LINZ plans to restore control areas with native trees.

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Public meeting details:

What: Lake Benmore islands wilding conifer control programme discussion

Where: Omarama Community Centre, Chain Hills Highway, Omarama

When: 7pm, Wednesday 21 March, 2018.

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