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Grahame Sydney says wilding pines are a “cancerous growth” on the landscape he is renowned for capturing but the issue of treatment is more complex.

That was the finding of the Vincent Community Board during a lengthy discussion regarding the felling of trees at the council-owned Half Mile Recreation Reserve at the southern boundary of Alexandra at an online meeting last week.

Sir Grahame, a member of the Central Otago Wilding Conifer Control Group (COWCCG), told community board members the distinctive and unique Central Otago landscape was in danger of being lost to the “cancerous growth” of the trees.

He acknowledged maintaining Central Otago’s landscape could be a “dream” but said it was one “worth fighting for”.

He was disappointed the plan to remove wilding conifers at Half Mile had run into “handicaps”.

The board was to consider the removal of wilding conifers from the reserve in Alexandra and redevelopment of the site, as part of a wider planned wilding conifer removal programme within the Vincent Ward.

However, the matter proved to be more complicated than simply felling the trees.

Before board members discussed the issue, Half Mile Residents’ Group spokesman Chris Winter spoke on behalf of 37 Bridge Hill residents living near the reserve.

Arguing for the retention of the trees, he said their concerns centred on a lack of consultation and engagement with the public, and a lack of planning and funding.

Initial plans were to clear-fell the site on October 8.

Mr Winter said residents learned of the plans from media reports.

The project was paused so details could be shared with the community, including proposed replanting, and to enable community views to be better understood.

A drop-in session was held on November 22 where the public were invited to provide feedback on a draft concept plan of what the site could look like following the trees’ removal.

The board was allocated $25,000 as the council’s contribution to the felling in Vincent Ward.

Council parks and recreation manager Gordon Bailey called on key organisations involved in wilding conifer control in Central Otago – Doc, the ORC and Sir Grahame of COWCCG – to speak.

Also from that group, Phil Murray told board members northwest winds spread seed from Half Mile trees across the Clutha River and into the hills of Matangi Station.

In his report to the board, Mr Bailey said the reserve was identified as a priority for this reason and because nearby farms, some of which were undertaking conifer control, were still subject to seed dispersal from council property.

The council had agreed to include funding in the long-term plan for three years to address wilding pines on those properties and $150,000 was approved over three years on the understanding the majority of the cost of removal would be funded by the Government’s national Wilding Conifer Management Strategy 2015-2030.

There was no room in the budget and so funds needed to be allocated in the next annual or long-term plan or from a reserve account such as the Alexandra Reserves Contribution Fund.

That could contribute $138,000.

Instead of proceeding with the recommendation, the board opted to leave the matter on the table to allow the council time to formulate a development plan and consider public consultation.