High country landowners want urgent funding to stop spread of invasive weed

High country landowners say they need urgent funding to stop the spread of the country's number one weed.

A control programme has managed to limit the spread of wilding pine, but every year, the cost to eradicate it grows.

The Ministry for Primary Industry's Sherman Smith said: "It literally is a biological invasion. These things are spreading out across the landscape at a somewhat alarming rate".

The pest has now crept its way over close to 2 million hectares, taking out native bush and farmland as landowners, loggers and government officials attempt to hold it back.

Wilding Conifer Trust’s Andrew Simpson said: "Every farmer is spending around $25,000 per year on removing wildling".

"You clear an area and you go back in five years and you have to clear it again."

For every tree they get rid of, thousands more take its place.

They say the only solution is to hit it at the root.

"Hundreds of thousands of hectares around the Mackenzie Basin that we've prevented from going to a problem, but we haven't solved it until we clear these key seed sources," Mr Smith said.

Land manager George Ormand said, "Until that's dealt with, we've got an almost impossible task of keeping the property clear".

One method being used to remove the invasive weed involves bulldozers, while others include aerial spraying and, in some cases hand tools. However, any meaningful plan of attack is going to be costly.

"There's a decision here for New Zealand. Do we keep dealing with these in perpetuity, or do we bite the bullet and invest and get rid of it once and for all?" Mr Smith said.

After missing out on major funding in the last few budgets, the bill is expected be more than $100 million.

"It'll cost about 30 per cent more next year than it did this year. Every year compounding."

"'A stitch in time saves nine' is the saying. In this case, a stitch in time saves 90,000," Mr Ormand added.

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A control programme has managed to limit the spread of wilding pine. Source: 1 NEWS