Wilding pine control “spreading its wings”
Established by a handful of passionate locals, the Marlborough Sounds Restoration Trust had modest beginnings but a lofty ambition: the landscape-scale control of wilding pines.
Wilding pines had long been a significant problem in the area, damaging the area’s scenic qualities and overtaking native plants as the dominant species. Thick stands of pines also presented a major fire risk and reduced catchment water flows.
When work started, back in 2008, many believed large scale control couldn’t be achieved. However, the Trust, and its collaborators and supporters, have spent the intervening years proving doubters wrong. Today, the project is one of the most successful of its kind in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Programme Manager for the Trust Andrew Macalister says community support has been critical. “The project spread its wings across the Sounds on the back of landowners’ enthusiasm.”
Andrew says the changes to the landscape have been rapid, aided by the Sounds high rainfall. “When you look out now, you think ‘wow!’ you can see the hillsides reverting to native bush.”
Not that it has been easy.
Labour-intensive approach proves successful
Each pine tree has been individually poisoned. It is a labour-intensive approach on the steep and challenging terrain but one that is proving very successful. “We’re doing it the hard way. But it’s the best way,” Andrew says.
Poisoning – by injecting a small amount of herbicide into a hole drilled in the tree – is preferred over felling as there is less damage to surrounding native vegetation and less chance of secondary pine re-growth. The method is also highly targeted, making it environmentally-friendly, with no release of herbicide into the land, waterways or air.
Skilled contractors carry out the work, aided by aerial photos and GPS. The ultimate result is tree decomposition. To date it is estimated that close to four million trees have been poisoned.
ADAMA doing their bit
Onboard with the project from the early days has been Nelson-based crop protection company ADAMA. Andrew initially contacted the company and asked about their Metsulfuron and Polaris® Accelerate products. Marketing Manager, Elisabeth Johnston says the Trust and ADAMA got talking; “And it went from there.”
Elisabeth says if conditions are right, Metsulfuron works in 2-3 weeks on the branches and pine needles. In 2 or 3 years, all that is left are the dead pine trunks which will eventually rot away. Metsulfuron is effective on most pines with the exception being pinaster (maritime pine) which requires glyphosate, also supplied by ADAMA.
Andrew says the Trust tested the ADAMA products thoroughly. “We were looking for something that mixes out really well and has the right pH. It was better than anything else we’d used before. We were delighted on that basis.”
He says if he has a landowner targeting wilding pines phone him, he’d recommend the ADAMA product. “You can have high confidence in it. It’s done the business.”
You can support the Marlborough Sounds Restauration Trust and their important work by donating here on their Givealittle page.