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Photo of Waikato River near Orakei Korako with wilding pines on the side of the bank.

The National Wilding Conifer Control Programme provided funding in  for wilding control work in the upper Waikato River (Orakei Korako to Tutukau Bridge). We provided $36,000 in 2019-2020 to support management of wilding pines in the area, and investigate how to manage wildings on river banks and cliffs.


The Threat

Orākei Kōrako/Red Hills is a ‘Significant Natural Area’ in the Rotorua District Plan. Much of the vegetation along the river is indigenous.  The area includes around 60 hectares of naturally rare geothermal vegetation. The area is home to several threatened or at-risk species including five species of ferns and geothermal kanuka, a species unique to the Taupo Volcanic Zone.’

This area is highly vulnerable to wildings, as wilding pines are often clustered towards the top of the slopes.  They threaten the riparian margins and cause damage to Wahi Tapu sites, including traditional burial caves along the river.

Once wilding pines start to produce seeds, these seeds are quickly and effectively spread by the wind.  This leads to a rapid increase in tree numbers.  If wildings continue to spread in the area wildings will continue to take over, forcing out native species.  They grow fast and rapidly overwhelm native species, quickly becoming dominant. 

Ngāti Tahu - Ngāti Whaoa iwi's original settlement

Orakei Korako is deeply significant to Ngāti Tahu - Ngāti Whaoa iwi and central to their identity as the site of their original settlement. 

It’s an area of significant importance for its biodiversity and geothermal features, and the control work is key to protecting and restoring the site. Ngāti Tahu - Ngāti Whaoa Runanga Trust will lead the control work, supported by the Waikato Regional Council. The Runanga has led wilding pine control work in Orakei Korako /Red Hills and surrounding areas since 2012. 

Burial caves along the Waikato River and the Ngati Whaoa iwi original settlement

The project

The Ngāti Tahu Ngāti Whaoa Runanga Trust has extensive experience in wilding conifer control.  They have fostered strong partnerships, collaborating with DOC and the Waikato Regional Council.  They have carried out a significant programme of work in the Orākei Kōrako/Red Hills geothermal area and across the river in the Tutukau Forest.

The funding we have provided was critical for this project, which would not have been started without it.  In particular the work we are funding will help protect vulnerable and nationally significant geothermal ecosystems at Orakei Korako and Red Hills from re-invasion, and protect their riparian margins. 

The project will both build on the Trust’s past work and protects these areas from re-infestation.

It will protect the native vegetation along the Waikato River banks from Orākei Kōrako up to the Tutukau Rd Bridge, and stop wilding pines from displacing riparian cliff vegetation.

Ngāti Tahu Ngāti Whaoa Runanga Trust undertook initial control work in 2013, with follow-up work in 2015.  This funding will focus on seed sources further back from Orākei Kōrako / Red Hills, reducing the risk of re-invasion.

See more photos of wilding pines at Orakei Korako in our image gallery.


Check out the next Wilding Pine case study: Arrowtown - protecting the high country