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Wildings in the Mackenzie – lend a helping hand

Date: 20th October 2022

Take the time to listen to this interview with Ross Ivey, Chair of the McKenzie Wilding Trust and Rachel Smalley from Today FM. Dated 13/10/22 it was done to advertise upcoming volunteer days. In the space of a few minutes Ross deftly articulates the threats wildings pose to our natural environments and water/hydro and the difference that volunteer days can make.

On the Land: Twizel working bee to tackle wilding pines – First Light with Rachel Smalley – Omny.fm

Wildings at Pukaki ©: Dave Hansford 

The MacKenzie Wilding Trust has recorded 247 volunteer hours over 155 hectares since March 2021. Volunteer days are a primary advocacy tool for their wilding work. They select different locations each time as an opportunity to talk about the different environmental, social and recreational assets wildings impact so people can see firsthand and make a difference.

They have worked in wetlands, tussock drylands, braided riverbeds, walking/biking trails, an organic farm, and have spoken about topics including seed source trees, erosion control and shelterbelt plantings, grazing, community fire hazard, control with and without pasting the stumps, impacts on ecosystems and threatened species. 

The most damaging species they are trying to control is Pinus contorta, but they are also controlling Corsican, Ponderosa, Scots Pine, Douglas fir, Larch and in some spots Mugo. 

Check out https://www.wildingpines.nz/assets/Documents/Wilding-Conifer-QUICK-ID-GUIDE.pdf to get your head around the different species. Challenge yourself when out and about with identifying which ones you see and if you’re really keen how many…

What can you do to help?

  1. Join Wilding Free MacKenzie and support their work. www.mackenziewildingtrust.org. If you’re a local or a visitor with a spare day – learn about wildings by attending a volunteer day

2. Support the Wilding Pine Network Sustaining the Gains campaign so that Wilding Free MacKenzie can continue its work.www.wildingpinenetwork.org.nz/sustaining-the-gains/

Even at the current level of funding there is not enough resource to protect all of the fragile intermontane basin ecosystems (nationally rare) of the Mackenzie and Upper Waitaki Basins. These ecosystems consist of mountain lands, shrublands and tussock grasslands above 900m and glacial outwash surfaces, moraines, braided rivers, river margins and wetlands in the lower areas. The intermontane Basins are unique in New Zealand and home to many endemic plants and animals, many of which are already rare. If wilding pine control is under-resourced, even for just a year or two, the damage to our intermontane basin ecosystems would be devastating, and in many instances irreversible.

Source: www.mackenziewildingtrust.org

Water table levels would drop meaning there would be less water available for our rivers, lakes, tarns (especially ephemeral tarns) and wells. There would be less water available for irrigation, and increased maintenance control costs on production land in the Mackenzie Basin and Waitaki Valley. This could also result in a reduction in capacity for hydro electricity production by Genesis Energy and Meridian Energy in the Mackenzie Basin and Waitaki Valley.  

Community fire danger risk would increase – Pine trees contain flammable resins and form a dense ladder of branches and needles (fuel) making them extremely flammable and contributing to large flame lengths and extreme fire intensity in the event of wildfire. This is compounded by climate change as areas like the Mackenzie Basin continue to become hotter and drier over time, reducing the moisture content in fuels and making them even more flammable. As climatic conditions intensify and the density and maturity of wilding pine infestations increases in rural residential areas, the threat to houses, sheds, livestock and human life increases significantly. Examples of local wildfire in wilding pines include the Ohau Village and Pukaki fires of 2020. 

Thanks to Haeleigh Turner – Community Coordinator for MacKenzie Wilding Trust for this information.

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