Farmers on the east side of the Teviot Valley face a potentially expensive threat from wilding pines in the next five years and want to know who should be responsible for preventing and mitigating the spread on to their land.
About 10 farmers, along with Otago Regional Council and Central Otago District Council representatives, attended a meeting at the Millers Flat hall on October 4, to hear Central Otago Wilding Conifer Control Group programme manager Phil Murray talk about the threat.
Mr Murray said he had flown over the Teviot properties and identified where wilding conifers would eventually have to be controlled, at costs ranging from about 50c/ha to $2200/ha depending on the method.
“There is not much of an immediate problem but people are concerned as they can see it is heading that way,” Mr Murray said.
“I wanted to know who was interested in participating in the control programme and whether they had got wilding conifers on their property and where they were.”
Three Douglas fir forests, of 1150ha, 680ha and 1400ha, had been planted close to Lake Onslow eight to 20 years ago. Two were seeding and the third would start within the next few years.
“The two forests of seeding age both had dense seedlings along their margins, but so far still mainly within their property boundaries,” Mr Murray said after the meeting.
“Strong wind events are sure to cause seed spread well beyond the forest boundaries as the country to the east of them is all extensively grazed or ungrazed.”
He said some of the resource consent conditions on plantations which had been granted relatively recently had required sites to be mob stocked to control the wilding pines, which, in his view, were not practical as the forestry is 850m-950m high, too high to establish a grassland that would allow it to be stocked heavily.
Meeting convener Pat Garden, of Teviot, said they wanted to know who was responsible for controlling wilding pines on neighbouring properties, the forest owners or the neighbouring landowners.
“That is the predicament we are facing and the crux of the matter,” Mr Garden said.
“As adjacent landowners we want the forest owners to take responsibility for wilding pines.”
Mr Murray said whether they did nothing or did something like removing forests where there was a high risk of wilding spread, the ratepayer would pay, one way or another.
Mr Garden said they would lobby the ORC to have other pinus and Douglas fir included in the Regional Pest Management Strategy Review and considered noxious.
PF Olsen Ltd manages the Teviot (located to the north of Lake Onslow Rd) and Pinelheugh (Bridge Huts Rd) forests.
Forest manager George Platts said PF Olsen acknowledged wilding conifer spread was an issue.
“We are approaching our forest owner clients as regards funding to manage spread coming from client forests to neighbouring grasslands,” he said.
Roger Dickie Ltd, which owns the other forests, did not respond to emailed questions.