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Funding cut a major blow for Mid Dome

Date: 26th May 2023

26th May 2023

Mid Dome in Southland is a prominent landmark between Queenstown and Invercargill. It’s pretty much ground zero for wilding control work. Between the 1950s and 1980s Crown agencies (MWD, NZFS) and local authorities planted P contorta (contorta pine) and P mugo (mountain pine) to stabilise hillside and prevent erosion and runoff into surrounding farmland. The pictures above show the industriousness of the planter and the challenging country they planted into.

Wilding control started at Mid Dome in the mid 90’s. The Mid Dome Trust was formed in 2006 – a community partnership to try and increase funding as significant tracts of land had been invaded. It wasn’t until 2017 when the national programme funded started that real gains started to be made. Since then, significant areas have been cleared as can be seen in the map below. The project now considers it is over halfway there.

BUT that can quickly be reversed with the 2/23rd reduction in funding from the 23/24 financial year.

The two photos above show spread downwind of Mid Dome into the Upper Tomogalak catchment and the success of the control work by May 2015 but it also shows trees that still need to be controlled. Although many of these probably have by now, the photo illustrates the essential need for ongoing maintenance at sufficient levels to completely remove trees and get them before they seed.

The Mid Dome Wilding Trust has estimated the impact of underfunding as summarised in the graphs below. It’s grim stuff. 2/3rd’s less funding means funding needed to recover lost gains accelerates rapidly. If the Trust is not funded to aerial spray at the levels needed, it will set the project back 10 years and increase eradication casts by $13 million.

Earlier this week, the Trust took politicians and councilors on a tour to illustrate the importance of the work, the significant gains made and to stress the essential need to continue funding at sufficient levels to keep sustaining the gains and complete the work so that land can be handed back to landowners. A link for the PowerPoint present is below.

The visit was picked up by the Otago Daily Times a longtime supporter of the wilding battle. A link to the article by Helen McFelin is below. Thanks Helen and ODT.

Brian Hore’s father Frank was a man ahead of his time. The Hore’s own Nokomai Station. Brian says his father Frank tried to have the trees removed, but the High Country Committee dismissed him and called him Pine Tree Frank. If only they had listened.

Ali Ballantine, chairwoman of the Mid Dome Wilding Trust is ready to walk away. ‘If this is not dealt with these wildings will stretch to Central Otago. They have a monoculture that wipe out everything else around them and spread prolifically”.

Richard Bowman, a Trustee and the Wilding Pine Network chair described the loss of funding as devastating. ‘It’s like a knife to the guts, with all the hard work disappearing down the tube”.

As Fred Dagg used to say GET IN BEHIND – we all need to increase our efforts to get the message out that funding cuts are simply not acceptable. We need to mainstream this point beyond our own converted networks to get the politicians to stand up and take notice. There is a small window of opportunity up to the elections. The knife is better used on trees and not to the guts of what to date is an extremely successful programme with impressive results and an extraordinary national partnership.

We want to see our natural environments look like the shot above… NOT THE ONE BELOW

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