Pine trees - what's the problem?

Arrowtown Choppers

Without large-scale funding and control within twenty years 20% of New Zealand will be covered with wilding pines. As wilding conifers spread across our landscapes they: reduce the numbers of plants and animals that are only found in New Zealand.

wilding pines

Q: What are 'Wilding Pines'

A: 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.

Q: 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.

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.

arrowtown choppers

Q: Where do wilding pines come from?

A: 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. 

Q: What parts of New Zealand are threatened by wilding pines?

A: 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.

wilding Control

Q: What can be done to control wilding pines?

A: 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.

Q: What is First Light Travel doing about it?

A: We are supporting the grassroots community action group the  'Arrowtown Choppers' (as in tree choppers) This is a grassroots project supported by the Arrowtown local community and local businesses including First Light Travel and New Zealand Trails. The project is a significant part of our strategy as a tourism business to offset carbon emissions and contribute to New Zealand's natural beauty!

As the forest develops, the carbon captured in the trees and soil will help offset our carbon dioxide emissions. The current plan is to plant and nurture over 100,000 seedlings for the foreseeable future. Volunteers will plant around 5000 trees per year. This collaboration represents a novel approach to reforestation and education, where the indigenous biodiversity of the land will be restored while providing a range of benefits to the community.

Join us on the journey of reducing our environmental footprint.

First Light Travel and our sister company New Zealand Trails acknowledge that we need to reduce our environmental footprint. Our carbon measurement and offset program to date has allowed us to plant over 3000 native beach trees.

First Light Travel is the Major Sponsor of the Arrowtown Community Tree Nursery  (set up by the Arrowtown Choppers) - ensuring that we can supply beech seedlings with the highest chance of survival due to local acclimitisation. 

Beech trees (Nothofagus species) can sequester a significant amount of carbon over their lifetimes. A mature tree can store about 22 kg of CO2 per year on average.

You can opt-in and help for as little as $NZ5pp (US$3) - or not, it's ok, we are going to do it anyway. This year we donated $NZ10,000 (that's 3,333 seedling beech trees) and volunteered with planting - and we intend to do better next and every other year.

Read more about our carbon offset program here.


Brent Narbey
Brent Narbey
: 15 Jan 2023 (Last updated: 16 Jul 2024)

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