On this page:
- The problem and the threat
- How wildings are controlled
- The National Programme
- What farmers and forest owners can do
- Find out more
Planted in the right place, and properly managed, some introduced conifers can:
- provide timber
- store carbon
- decrease erosion
- filter soil nutrients
- improve water quality
- provide shelter and shade for stock.
In the wrong place, certain species of conifers are a major threat to New Zealand's ecosystems, land, and farms.
- Their seeds can be blown many kilometres by wind, and quickly infest vulnerable landscapes in affected regions.
- They spread into farmland, the high country (including above the native bush line), and public conservation land.
- If not contained or removed, these wilding conifer trees compete with native plants and animals for sunlight and water.
- Within a few years they can severely alter natural landscapes and obscure the views New Zealand is famous for.
Controlling the spread of self-seeded wilding conifers is important if we're to protect our ecosystems, iconic landscapes, and farms. Control will also help with water conservation in some regions, particularly the South Island high country.
Wilding conifers are controlled in New Zealand using several methods including:
- hand-pulling or hand-sawing young seedlings
- sawing or chain sawing medium to large trees
- using herbicide, either injected directly into the tree, or applied to bark, or in specific circumstances (less than 1% of all control work), sprayed over large areas.
The method used depends on:
- where the wildings are in relation to access and nearby land uses
- tree size and species
- size and density of the infested area
- native ecological significance of surrounding land
- practicality and cost effectiveness.
In different regions and even within large infested areas, wilding trees grow at different rates and in different densities. Often they are in terrain that is hard to get to.
Protecting natural features, people, and property near the wildings while doing the control work is also a priority. A lot of planning goes into making sure the safest and most effective control method is used for each area of infestation.
Working together to stop the spread
It's estimated 25% of New Zealand would be covered in unwanted wilding conifers within 30 years if they were left to spread. Wilding conifers already cover more than 1.8 million hectares of New Zealand. Despite past control efforts, they were spreading across about 90,000 hectares a year.
In 2014 a cross-sector group, led by Biosecurity New Zealand, developed a national strategy. It recommended a coordinated and collaborative approach – combining efforts around the country and working together would increase the chances of stopping the spread and removing wildings.
The Right tree in the right place: The New Zealand wilding conifer management strategy 2015–2030 provides the framework for the National Programme:
The wilding conifer management strategy 2015–2030 [PDF, 1.3 MB]
The National Wilding Conifer Control Programme was established in 2016. It aims to prevent the spread of these tree pests and to progressively remove them from much of the land already invaded. The programme is a partnership between central and local government agencies with the farming and forestry industries, landowners, and the community sector. It also works with a wide range of stakeholder groups.
Government funding to date
- In 2016, the government pledged $16 million over 4 years for the first phase of the national programme, used for wilding conifer control in a few of the highest priority areas.
- In 2019, a further $21 million was allocated over 2 years.
- In early 2020, $3 million from the COVID-19 relief package was used to redeploy workers affected by the pandemic into wilding control.
- Budget 2020 allocated further Crown funding of $100 million over 4 years to expand the national programme.
Progress under the national programme
As of June 2021, around 50% of the known infestation has received at least one round of control work through the national programme.
2016 to 2018
In the programme's first year (2016 to 2017) the partners controlled and prevented the spread of wilding conifers across around 1.2 million hectares of New Zealand's high country. Its success was due to the funding support and commitment of all involved – wilding tree management groups, landholders, and central and local government.
The programme carried out control work over a further 371,000 hectares in 2017 to 2018.
2020 to 2021
From July 2020 to June 2021, the wilding conifer work programme and partners spent almost $40 million on control, delivering work on 817,000 hectares.
2021 to 2022
Eight new management units (MUs) were brought into the programme. MUs are geographical areas used by the programme to divide up regions into smaller areas, for the purpose of planning control work. This means we now have activated MUs across 75% of the known infestation area.