Wilding pine days in Waimakariri basin

September & October 2018

Lots of us recall the bus trips to the Waimakariri Basin to clear self- seeding wilding pine trees from the grassland landscape. Combining with other groups was a social as well as a productive arrangement, as well as a fundraiser for clubs.

Then, for a variety of reasons Environment Canterbury pulled the buses. In its place, Environment Canterbury allocated a ‘block’ to each participating club, with an expectation we would clear it of invading trees over a period of time on a self-managing basis, incentivised by an annual allocation covering travel costs plus a per-head ‘fee’, shored-up by our underlying commitment to protect high country grasslands. This met a mixed response from clubs, but PTC took it on.

Then a boost in central Govt. funding for controlling wilding conifers enabled Environment Canterbury and the Department of Conservation to mobilise commercial contractors. Being more focussed and efficient than volunteers, they have made a very big impact on the trees. Our volunteer role shifted to one of mopping up and gap filling areas after and between the contractors.

The three dates we set for the last couple of months had variable success. The first mid-week one attracted a core of ‘hardy perennials’, Kerry Moore, Gary Huish, Raymond Ford, Peter Umbers and myself, who cleared a useful strip of nice-sized mini trees on the terrace just above the road into Broken River ski field, leaving, we thought, the sparser trees up on rising ground to our left for the next day that did not happen Snow on the ground scared our Saturday carload off, and the next midweek day attracted only three regulars – not quite car load – each willing to make up the numbers, but not so keen immediately after their respective labour weekend trips. It seemed kindest to cancel that day as well.

Although we await a seasonal outlook from those co-ordinating the overall tree control effort in the Waimakariri, the up-scaled contractor effort, matched with gap-filling volunteer days is definitely gaining ground. Arguably, there has never been a better time for PTC members, as Kerry says in Footnotes, “to spend a rewarding day in the hills ridding the Castle Hill basin of pesky pines”. Look out for some fresh dates soon, to suit weekenders as well as those with weekdays in their hands.

Grant Hunter