Wilding conifers

If allowed to spread further, wilding conifers could seriously alter New Zealand's unique landscape. Learn about the programmes and partnerships we've put in place to stop these trees from spreading and what you can do to help.

The problem

It's estimated 20% of New Zealand will be covered in unwanted wilding conifers within 20 years if their spread isn't stopped. Wilding conifers already cover more than 1.8 million hectares of New Zealand. Despite control efforts, they have been spreading at about 5% a year. That's about 90,000 more hectares a year.

Image showing spread of wilding conifers in a single area from 1998 to 2015.
Images showing how wilding conifer can spread if left unchecked – Mid Dome, Upper Tomogalak catchment, from 1998 to 2015. Image credit: Richard Bowman.

A major threat

Planted in the right place, introduced conifer trees such as pines and firs can:

  • provide timber
  • store carbon
  • decrease erosion
  • filter soil nutrients
  • improve water quality
  • provide shelter and shade for stock.

In the wrong place, these conifers are a major threat to New Zealand's ecosystems, land and farms. Their seeds can be blown many kilometres by wind, and have spread into areas such as farmland, the high country (including above the native bush line), and public conservation land. Seedlings quickly infest an area. If they aren't removed, these wilding conifer trees compete with native plants and animals for sunlight and water, and can severely alter natural landscapes.

Controlling the spread of wilding conifers is important if we're to protect our ecosystems, iconic landscapes and farms. Control will also help with water conservation.

What we're doing about them

The National Wilding Conifer Control Programme aims to prevent the spread of these tree pests and to progressively remove them from much of the land already invaded.

The Right tree in the right place: The New Zealand wilding conifer management strategy 2015-2030 provides the framework for this programme.

MPI, the Department of Conservation, and Land Information New Zealand are leading the work, with support from other central and local government agencies. Forestry and farming industries, landowners, researchers and communities are also providing support.

The wilding conifer management strategy 2015-2030

More government funding to help

It's estimated about $11 million is spent each year on wilding conifer control nationwide. In May 2016, the government pledged an extra $16 million over 4 years for the first phase of a national control programme. The new funding will be used to tackle wilding conifers in the highest priority areas.

Funding for phase 1 is focused on:

  • the species which are most prone to spreading
  • areas with the greatest vulnerability to invasion
  • areas where control is most cost effective
  • managing infestations over large areas
  • protecting farmland, biodiversity, iconic landscapes and sensitive water catchments.

Over a million hectares in year one

In the programme's first year (2016 to 2017) we've controlled and prevented the spread of wilding conifers across around 1.2 million hectares of New Zealand's high country. Our success is due to the funding support and commitment of all involved – wilding tree management groups, land holders, and central and local government. The controlled areas include conservation land and farmland in:

  • Kaimanawa (Central North Island)
  • Molesworth (Marlborough)
  • Amuri-Lewis (North Canterbury)
  • Porters, Craigieburn (Arthur's Pass)
  • Four Peaks, Hakatere (South Canterbury)
  • Godley (Mackenzie)
  • Kakanui – St Mary-Ida (Northern Otago)
  • Dunstan (Central Otago)
  • Kawarau, Northern Eyre, Remarkables (Queenstown)
  • Five Rivers (Northern Southland).

Nearly 400,000 more hectares in year two

The government is adding a further 371,000 hectares to the programme in 2017 to 2018. The new areas to be controlled are in:

  • Tekapo West, Tekapo East, Ohau (Mackenzie, Canterbury)
  • Lammermoor (Otago)
  • Mid Dome (Southland).

View a map of the North Island control areas [PDF, 2.1 MB]

View a map of the South Island control areas [PDF, 1.5 MB]

What farmers and forest owners can do to help

Wilding conifers are incredibly hard to get rid of once they become established. Farmers and forest owners can discourage wilding conifers by:

  • carefully selecting which conifer species is planted and where
  • removing wilding conifer saplings that have established outside planted areas, before they develop seed cones
  • working with neighbours to control wilding conifers that have spread across property boundaries.

Always consider the risk of future spread when deciding where and when to plant conifer species. The Wilding Conifers website can help you calculate this.

Who is involved

Groups and organisations involved in managing wilding conifers in New Zealand are:

Find out more

Who to contact

If you have questions about wilding conifers, email info@mpi.govt.nz

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