Ferry passengers entering Tōtaranui Queen Charlotte Sounds will notice something unusual on the iconic Arapaoa Island.
Thanks to funding from the National Wilding Conifer Control Programme, hundreds of dead wilding trees spot the hillsides of the island, clear evidence of the wilding conifer eradication efforts on the island.
Sherman Smith, manager of the National Wilding Conifer Control Programme at Biosecurity New Zealand, says the decision to support the Marlborough Sounds Restoration Trust’s control work with $500,000 in funding is in recognition of the historical, cultural and ecological significance of Arapaoa Island.
"The island is steeped in history but the native forest on the Island and the nearby headlands were at risk from mature wildings throwing seed. We agreed with the Marlborough Sounds Restoration Trust on the need to act, and they offered experienced hands to lead the work – as the results show.
"The funding from the programme put us about 5 years ahead of schedule," says John Hellstrom, chair of the Marlborough Sounds Restoration Trust.
"The control work has had a really significant impact because of the location of Arapaoa within the Sounds."
Seen by around 250,000 ferry travellers every year, Arapaoa Island lies where Tōtaranui Queen Charlotte Sound meets Kura Te Au / Tory Channel.
The National Wilding Conifer Control Programme funded work on 2 scenic reserves at the south end of Arapaoa Island, totalling about 900 hectares: Rūaomoko Point Scenic Reserve, and Ngaruru Scenic Reserve, which includes the site of a village inhabited hundreds of years ago.
Sherman explains that while the initial sight of dead trees might seem alarming, it’s a welcome view for the local community, celebrating the start of the process of the return of native biodiversity.
"Within a few years, those wilding trees are breaking down, birds drop seeds onto the ground beneath, dappled light gets through, and the native forest comes back. That restoration of Te Mana o te Taiao, the wellbeing of the environment, is an important driver of the programme’s work," Sherman says.
"The Trust has the support of Te Ātiawa o te Waka-a-Māui, Ngāti Kuia and Rangitāne o Wairau to protect this section of the Sounds. That was an important factor for us and our local partner Marlborough District Council, in granting the funding. They’ve worked with the whole community."
The Trust hosted a boat tour of the area recently to show the progress at Arapaoa and nearby Maraetai Bay.
"In 10 or 15 years, the entire Sounds would be wilding conifers instead of native bush, without all the efforts put in on Arapaoa, and the wider Sounds, by many people over many years," John says.
"People loved seeing the wilding trees browning and disintegrating, and then areas of fully restored native forest – that’s the long-term reward we’re all aiming for, and we’re showing that it can be done."
The National Wilding Conifer Control Programme and Marlborough Sounds Restoration Trust recognise the Tangata Whenua to the wider area of Te Tau Ihu o Te Waka a Maui/Marlborough Sounds.
About the National Wilding Conifer Control Programme
- Led by Biosecurity New Zealand, part of the Ministry for Primary Industries, with partner agencies Department of Conservation, Toitū Te Whenua Land Information New Zealand, New Zealand Defence Force, working in partnership with local government, industry, mana whenua, researchers, landowners and communities.
- The Programme was established in 2016, and received $100 million in Jobs for Nature funding for 4 years from 2020.
- The Programme has treated around half of the total known infestation area at least once and has around 3-quarters of the total area within scope for management.
- In the right place, well-managed, planted conifers are a valuable resource and export earner for New Zealand. In the wrong place, wilding conifers (also known as ‘wilding pines’ but including species of pine, fir and larch) cost New Zealand millions of dollars annually.
About Marlborough Sounds Restoration Trust
- Marlborough Sounds Restoration Trust has been working in the Sounds since 2003 to combat the spread of wildings.
- Over its 20 years, the Trust has raised at least $2.5 million in funding from the local landowners and local community, businesses, as well as grants from Lotteries Commission and the Rata Foundation.
- The Marlborough Sounds Restoration Trust was named Supreme Winner in the Cawthron Marlborough Environment Awards in 2021 Judges' Feedback – Marlborough Sounds Restoration Trust 2021 – Cawthron Marlborough Environment Awards