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In a sunny Saturday morning in March, dedicated members of the Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group Inc (WCG) started their 30-minute journey up the stunning Te Tapu-nui (Queenstown Hill).

Formed in April 2009, the WCG is made up of local biosecurity champions who donate their time to reduce and prevent the spread of wilding pines in Wakatipu. Volunteer group coordinator, Joanne Phelan says “Queenstown Hill is an integral part of the iconic landscape of the Wakatipu. Without wilding control efforts over the last ten years, it would be smothered in wildings.”

Although they are beautiful to look at, wilding pines overwhelm our native landscapes, killing native plants and forcing out native animals. Unlike commercial forests, wilding pines are self-seeded and spread aggressively - changing our beautiful natural landscapes.

The dozen or so volunteers spent the morning through to early afternoon, clearing an area that surrounds the popular “Basket of Dreams” sculpture along the Queenstown Hill Time Walk.

WCG volunteers take a break to appreciate the very scenery they are trying to preserve

An empowered community

Volunteers Dena Valente and James Cooney said they became aware of on-going work to stop the spread of wilding pines in Queenstown, through the media and council updates. 

“We found out about the volunteer day through Facebook.  We love New Zealand's unique landscapes, native forests and birdlife, so we are keen to be a part of the huge effort we know is needed to preserve them for future generations."

Recently appointed as the Volunteer group co-ordinator Joanne says “The WCG has to use a range of methods to achieve control, and volunteers like Dena and James are a critical part of the overall effort. They understand just how vital it is for the future of our native vegetation to stop these exotic conifers from taking over.”

Community champion - Dena Valente

Community champion - James Cooney

 “Volunteers form an important part of community education and support for wilding control.  My aim is to grow the volunteer base and lead the coordination of volunteers participating in wilding control work, and to manage and grow the Adopt-A-Plot program”

The Adopt-A-Plot programme is designed to provide intensive control of smaller areas around Wakatipu. Family, friends or business groups can adopt a specific area, hand clear it of pine seedlings and then maintain it to prevent further spread.

“The WCG will support you and provide you with the right tools and guidance you need to join the war on wildings”

If you would like to know more about this programme, email Joanne at joannemphelan@gmail.com.