If we don’t do something about wilding trees – and do it soon – within 20 years our world-famous autumn colours will be a thing of the past. Already large patches of dark green break up the spectacular autumn curtain of golds and reds on the hillsides that form the backdrop to Arrowtown.
Those patches of green on Tobins Face, between the Crown Range Road and Sawpit Gully, are just a hint what’s to come. The Douglas fir trees are a virulent seed source for untold numbers of seedlings that, given the opporturnity, would smother and completely outstrip the colourful deciduous trees. The problem is made doubly difficult by the fact the autumn colour trees are themselves invasive wilding species.
Arrowtown Wilding Strategy
In 2017 the Arrowtown Wilding Group was formed. This subgroup of the Arrowtown Village Association has been working with various stakeholders, including Soho Property (the leaseholder of much of the land in the hills behind Arrowtown), Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group, Queenstown Lakes District Council, Otago Regional Council, Land Information New Zealand, the Department of Conservation and the Arrowtown Promotion and Business Association.
In August 2017 the Arrowtown Wilding Group released its draft Arrowtown Wilding Strategy. This document maps a pathway for both wilding control and enhancing Arrowtown’s autumn colours by replanting with a mix of non-invasive colour species and natives. The programme will run over at least 20 years, with fundraising and community involvement ongoing.
Ground control work funded by a Ministry of Primary Industries grant and overseen by the Department of Conservation began in early 2018. There has been tree felling around the Arrow River heading to Macetown. Felling has also started at the Crown Range zigzags and will work its way back to Arrowtown as funding allows.
If you’d like to get involved in the war on wildings, the Arrowtown Choppers volunteer group coordinates community members to manually remove the pesky wilding plants.