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Public opposition towards the eradication of wilding conifers on two reserves last month caused the Central Otago District Council to push pause.

However, the control operation will be completed before the end of the year.

Council-owned Half Mile and Lower Manorburn Dam reserves were due to undergo a control operation in October  to remove the invasive pest.

However, strong public push-back caused the CODC to halt eradication plans while it considered the community’s views.

CODC acting executive manager of planning and environment Lee Webster said the decision to pause the control operation reflected the value the community placed on the entrance to Alexandra.

“However, further discussion has reinforced the council’s belief that the site, having been identified as key to the spread of wilding conifers to other sites nearby, needs to be dealt with as soon as possible,” Mr Webster said.

Half Mile Reserve southern entrance to Alexandra vested in the council in 1973 as a reserve for recreational purposes under the Reserves Act 1977.

CODC parks and recreation manager Gordon Bailey said by continuing with the control operation, the council was being a responsible land owner, and contributing to a nationwide initiative to preserve the country’s vulnerable landscapes through the eradication of pests that cause widespread destruction to the environment.

“Early photos show the area to be bare of trees in 1956.”

The existing pine trees were not planted, and most likely self-seeded from nearby trees over the past 30 to 40 years, Mr Bailey said.

The reserve could be enhanced for a range of recreational activities as well as providing an attractive entrance into Alexandra, he said.

“There is real potential for this reserve once the trees have been removed and the existing rock and archaeological features exposed.”

Pre-1900 water races, a sluice gulch remnant and the historical Alexandra-Roxburgh Rd alignment could be featured with interpretation panels telling the story of the site, non-spreading plants established including natives if possible, and a trail network formed to provide safe access for all users, he said.

The council had engaged a professional to provide options for possible enhancement of the Half Mile Reserve for consideration by the wider community, and it was hoped possible options would be available to the community to provide input from the middle of this month.