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Invasive trees removed in South Canterbury – better for the environment and for safe stopping places


Hundreds of invasive and fast-spreading wilding conifer trees have been removed from multiple sites in South Canterbury in recent months by the NZ Transport Agency’s contractors.

Pest trees have been spreading in recent years in places like the Mackenzie Basin, along State Highway 8.

Most of the pest trees in road reserve areas adjoining the highway have now been removed between Dog Kennel Corner at Haldon Road and Lake Pukaki at Hayman Road.

Road user safety

As well as addressing the biosecurity risk of wilding pine spread, the works will benefit road users by removing roadside hazards like large trees and also reduce winter shading and icing patches along this route, says John Keenan, Maintenance Contract Manager, for the Transport Agency in South Canterbury.

“We were also able to work in with Land Information New Zealand with the construction of a new safe stopping area at Hayman Road on the eastern shoreline of Lake Pukaki. Our contractors were able to clear out a section of wilding pines on the lake foreshore to open up a vista onto Lake Pukaki and Aoraki/ Mount Cook. This is a popular stopping place for tourists and the recent safety improvement works provide a new location to stop and take photos instead of the previous practice of parking on no stopping lines on a high speed curve.”

The Transport Agency work cost around $280,000.

Conifers are a major threat to New Zealand ecosystems, land and farms, competing with native plants and endangered animals and severely altering the natural landscape.

Through the National Wilding Conifer Control Programme(external link), the Government is co-investing millions of dollars with landowners into the battle against wildings across the country, including the Mackenzie District. The programme is led by the Ministry for Primary Industries, in partnership with Land Information New Zealand, the Department of Conservation and a range of other agencies and groups.

Tekapo West, Tekapo East, and Ohau have been identified as areas of priority. 

These three areas cover 510,000 hectares of the Mackenzie Basin and are among 19 areas in total that are currently being managed across the country. Wilding conifer control in the Mackenzie District will help protect iconic high country landscapes, conservation values, for example the kaki/black stilt habitat, productive farmland, recreational and tourism opportunities and water catchments.

“The Transport Agency’s crews worked alongside similar programmes carried out on private land east of Tekapo by landowners,” says Mr Keenan.

“This is a great example of collaboration with MPI, DOC, LINZ, NZ Defence Force, Environment Canterbury (ECan), land owners and leaseholders, the Mackenzie Wilding Conifer Trust, and our contractors Stuart Tarbotton Contractors and Canterbury Woodchip Supplies.

“Together with Lance Smith of ECan, our contractors did a great job working in with landowners and the community. Safety around the work areas was critical to keep people outside of any tree-felling areas. One area to the east of Tekapo township required a community walkway to be temporarily closed and access closely monitored when trees were being felled. Temporary traffic management was also used on SH8 with short closures ensuring drivers were safe when trees were being cut close to the roadside.

“The Tekapo Lions Club and other landowners also benefited from supplies of tree stocks ready to be used for firewood. The tree limbs and branches (slash) by product was chipped to clean up each site, producing a good supply of bark mulch for the local community.”

Sherman Smith, Wilding Conifer Programme Manager at MPI, says the work supports the objectives of the national programme in preventing the spread of wildings across these iconic, South Canterbury landscapes and protecting the natural environment.

“With the Transport Agency carrying out the control work in coordination with surrounding land owners, it means that the risk of wilding reinvasion into cleared areas is minimised and all parties benefit.”