Wilding pines programme 'ramping up' in bid to stop fires

Wilding pines can help the spread of fire.
Wilding pines can help the spread of fire. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Government says more than 500 new jobs will be created over the next year, with wilding pine control efforts across the country "ramping up".

A number of programmes - both regional council-led and smaller-scale community partnerships - will tackle more than 800,000 hectares of wilding pine infestations in a bid to prevent future fires.

"We'll see significant work throughout most of New Zealand – in Northland, across the Central North Island, in Marlborough, Nelson/Tasman, Queenstown, Otago and Southland," Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said on Tuesday. 

"More than $17 million of work is allocated over 400,000 hectares of wilding infestations in Canterbury alone, including extensive infestations in Craigieburn and the Mackenzie."

O'Connor said around 550 new jobs will be created through the projects.

"This is not necessarily about putting people into new careers.  It is about finding work for people now, while their sectors recover from COVID-19."

Late last month, a massive fire near Lake Pukaki, in the South Island, was attributed in part to wilding pines, which helped the fire spread. 

Civil Defence Minister Peeni Henare said on Tuesday he "saw the devastation first-hand" and heard from locals in Mackenzie District that "wilding pines are a pest".

Funding for the effort comes from this year's Budget, which included $100 million for wilding pine control through the Jobs for Nature programme.

O'Connor said more than $36 million of that will be spent over the next 12 months as part of the four-year programme.

The projects extend the work from 19 to 58 sites across the country.