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Unlike well-managed plantation forests, wilding pine infestations are rarely a usable resource. They increase the intensity and hazard of wildfires, smother native undergrowth, and reduce available ground water.
A handful of wilding pines can spread their seeds on the wind for miles.

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What are wilding pines? 

Wilding pines are trees which have self-seeded and are growing where they are not supposed to be - they are the wrong tree in the wrong place. 

Unlike commercial forests, wilding pines are weeds.  In fact, wilding pines are the plants which pose the biggest threat to New Zealand’s unique environment.  They are as much of a menace to our environment as stoats, rats and possums.

Why wildings are a problem

Wilding pines overwhelm our native landscapes, killing native plants and forcing out native animals.

They grow very densely - taking the sun, water and nutrients other plants need.  Unlike native New Zealand bush - where a wide variety of species exist together - wilding pines produce forests which largely support only other wilding pines.  Native plants and animals are forced out.

Once wilding pines start to produce cones, the seeds within them are quickly and effectively spread by the wind.  This leads to a rapid increase in the number of trees. 

The increase in the number of trees means more seeds and so the area of land infested by wilding pines increases very rapidly. Wildings have rapidly infested New Zealand since the 1970s.

The graph depicts density of wilding pines from 1900 to 2015 with a large increase in sparse, moderate and dense infestations

Wilding infestations since 1900

 

Wildings also force out other species

They grow so fast, they rapidly overwhelm native and productive species.  Wilding pines take the sunshine, water and nutrients other plants need to grow and then quickly become the dominant species.  The loss of native plant species means that native animals, like kereru, which feed on these native plants, are also forced out.  We must act now and remove wilding pines to protect New Zealand’s unique natural environments and regional economy.

Where do wilding pines come from?

Wildings are the wrong tree in the wrong place.  Unlike commercial forests, wilding pines are weeds.   They are self-seeded and not intentionally planted.  Once they get established, wilding pines spread quickly.  Within 3 decades, more than 25% of New Zealand could be covered by wilding pines unless we control the problem.  We must act now, before the problem becomes too big.  Every year we wait, the cost of removing wilding pines rises by 30%.  We must remove wilding pines to protect New Zealand’s unique natural environments and regional economy. 

What parts of New Zealand are threatened by wilding pines?

Around 1.8 million hectares of New Zealand’s unique natural environment is known to be infested with wilding pines. This includes some of our most iconic landscapes like Mt Tongariro, the Coromandel, the MacKenzie Basin, and Kai Iwi Lakes in Northland.  

Also seriously at risk are areas with low-growing native plant communities such as geothermal areas, alpine areas and coastal communities, as wilding pines quickly shade these out, forcing these species out.

Photo of a lone wilding pine growing on Mt Tarawera

Lone wilding pine on Mt Tarawera

What can be done to control wilding pines?

We can control the spread of wilding pines.  The National Wilding Conifer Control Programme aims to bring New Zealanders together to tackle this significant national problem, including central and local government, local communities, researchers, industry and private landowners.  The programme has already protected 3 million hectares, or just over 11 %, of New Zealand’s most vulnerable land. 

If we do nothing, research predicts we will lose up to 7.5 million hectares of New Zealand to wilding pine invasion. This could have an economic cost of $4.6 billion, due to the negative impact of wilding pines on primary production, biodiversity, hydroelectrical power generation and irrigation.  We must act now and remove wilding pines to protect New Zealand’s unique natural environments and regional economy.

More

Our FAQ document gives more details to answers to even more questions about wilding pines. This was last updated in April 2020.

Containment of large scale infestations is achievable if we keep up momentum and everyone does their bit.