Who Are We?

The Whakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group Inc (WCG) is a community, not-for-profit organisation created in April 2009. We are focused on protecting biodiversity and the remarkable landscape of the Whakatipu for the benefit of residents, users, tourists and particularly, future generations. The WCG aim is to control wilding trees. Queenstown is renowned worldwide for its stunning and iconic landscapes, but they are under threat from wilding trees. Wilding conifers threaten and replace native beech forests and tussock.

How we do it

Alert – The community to the exponential spread and cost of wilding control.
Communicate – The WCG programme of control and projected effects of no control.
Eradicate – ALL seeding trees where possible.
Contain – Non-removable wilding areas and planted forests.
Hand Back – Control maintenance to landowners, DOC and QLDC at the end of the WCG five year strategy periods.

Our Vision is the Protection
and Enhancement of:

Landscape & Aesthetic Values – Views of beautiful golden tussock & glacial landscapes are under threat.  Shading & loss of sunlight negatively impacts facilities and communities

Conservation Values – The loss of flora and fauna that is unique to the biodiversity of the Otago region.

Land Use Values – Timber in most wildings has little economic use and a closed conifer shades out grazing species.

Hydrological Values – Closed canopy lowers water yield into rivers/catchments due to canopy interception and evaporation.

Recreational Values – Keeping tramping, walking, running, cycling and skiing tracks and trails from being smothered.

Historical Values – keeping our valued historical sites intact.

Volunteer

If you or a group of people are interested in doing conifer control work then get in touch by clicking here.  We organise regular Volunteer Events but are happy to help get you involved and have the tools necessary to get chopping!

Join Us

adopt-a-plot

The WCG run a volunteer program called ‘Adopt a Plot’, this represents a new approach to the problem.

Rather than a few volunteers looking after a large area, the program seeks to engage with many people who can provide intensive control of smaller areas.

Under this program, businesses, community groups, schools, and family groups adopt a specific area of the basin. Each group will be responsible for hand clearing their plot of seedlings and then maintaining the area to prevent regrowth. The WCG will help interested parties select a suitable plot and then provide ongoing support including training, advice and loan of tools and equipment.

More Info        Get Started

Team

WCG PatronsWCG Patrons
Sir Eion and Jan Lady Edgar have a passionate love of and commitment to restoring and maintaining Whakatipu’s iconic landscapes. Eion brings a wealth of experience in business, in community and nationwide organisations, along with his wisdom and encouragement to the WCG executive. While Jan has the practical experience and love of the outdoors.
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WCG PatronsWCG Patrons
Sir Eion and Jan Lady Edgar have a passionate love of and commitment to restoring and maintaining Whakatipu’s iconic landscapes. Eion brings a wealth of experience in business, in community and nationwide organisations, along with his wisdom and encouragement to the WCG executive. While Jan has the practical experience and love of the outdoors. Eion served on the University of Otago Council from 1981 and as Chancellor from 1999 until 2003, A former Director of the Reserve Bank of NZ, Chairman of the New Zealand Stock Exchange and Forsyth Barr, President of the NZ Olympic Committee, a Trustee of the Arts Foundation and the Halberg Disability Foundation. He also fitted into his busy life Chairing the Central Lakes Trust, and being Patron and Trustee of the Queenstown Trails Trust. Eion’s business and philanthropic work has earned him numerous awards and was given a knighthood (KNZM) in 2003.
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Peter WillsmanPeter Willsman
Founding Chairman of the Whakatipu Wilding Control Group, Peter arrived from the UK as a 15 year and now resides in Kelvin Heights.
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Peter WillsmanPeter Willsman
Founding Chairman of the Whakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group, Peter was originally from the UK. Arriving in New Zealand as a 15 year old he gained a Diploma in Farming. His early career involved sheep and beef farming. His academic years involved study at Laidlaw College, gaining a degree at Otago University and then Knox College. Non study opportunities included time to ski, tramp and climb peaks such as Mt Aspiring and Mt Cook. With 31 years in a challenging parish ministry in Mataura and East Taieri, Peter and Beryl also built their own house at Kelvin Heights where they eventually retired.  
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Grant HensmanGrant Hensman
As Chair of WCG, Grant is passionate about educating people on the threat wilding conifers pose to the environment.
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Grant HensmanGrant Hensman
Queenstown born and raised, Grant Hensman has a long-standing connection to the Whakatipu wilding conifer control cause. Grant is the son of Skyline Enterprises founder Hylton Hensman and has spent much of his life involved with Skyline Queenstown operations - while witnessing the dramatic change to the landscape caused by wilding conifers over the years. Starting out washing dishes in Skyline’s restaurant as a youngster, Grant has previously managed gondola maintenance before leading the company’s national and international luge project development. He has been a director of the board since 1994. Aside from witnessing the threat to native flora on Bob’s Peak, Grant has watched the scenery get “smothered” by wilding pines in Skippers Canyon, where he owns a holiday bach. As Chairman of WCG, Grant is passionate about educating people on the threat wilding conifers pose to the environment. While acknowledging that it can be a controversial topic, Grant wants to focus on increased lobbying to central government – to highlight this as a national issue, not just a local problem.  
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Dick HubbardDick Hubbard
Dick joined the WCG in July, 2015 and now looks after communications and PR for the WCG.
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Dick HubbardDick Hubbard

Dick joined the WCG in July, 2015 and now looks after communications and PR for the WCG. He is Chairman - Hubbard Foods Ltd and has been known to make a few breakfast cereals!

He now lives (very happily) in Queenstown. Dick says “I am very keen on environmental matters and the Wilding Pine problem personally is a very interesting (and important) one. What I like about it is the fact that it is a problem that can definitely be beaten with the right expertise and money.

However we are very close to the "Tipping Point" and therefore if a concerted effort is not made now the whole battle could be lost and lost forever within 10 years.

I am very interested in the outdoors and have been a keen tramper and mountain climber. However these days the biggest mountain I climb is Queenstown Hill!”


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Grant MclennanGrant Mclennan
Grant is a Queenstown business consultant with a passion for New Zealand’s wild and has 40 years of tramping, climbing and skiing experince.
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Grant MclennanGrant Mclennan

Grant is a Queenstown based business consultant. He has a passion for New Zealand’s wild places based on 40 years of tramping, climbing and skiing.

His interest in wilding trees grew out of the rampant destruction that is clearly evident in the mountains surrounding Queenstown. “I couldn’t stand by and let this happen, I had to get involved”.


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Grant McMasterGrant McMaster
Grant has been the General Manager of Closeburn Station for the past 11 years.
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Grant McMasterGrant McMaster
Grant is the General Manager, Closeburn Station and has held this position for the past 11 years. His academic qualifications gained include a NZ Trade Certificate Farm Management and Advanced National Certificate in Agriculture, specialising in farm and grassland management – Berkshire College, England.  His interests range from dog trials, rugby, travelling, and horse racing.  
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David ButtDavid Butt
David is the Operations Manager for Whakatipu, Pou Matarautaki Whakatipu-wai-Māori and has oversight of all the Department’s operations delivery in the Whakatipu basin.
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David ButtDavid Butt
David is the Operations Manager for Whakatipu, Pou Matarautaki Whakatipu-wai-Māori and has oversight of all the Department’s operations delivery in the Whakatipu basin. David joined the Department of Conservation in 2021 having previously worked in disaster management for Resilience NSW in Australia, through the black summer bushfires and many other natural disasters that occurred during his time there. Prior to this, he worked in Surf Lifesaving, having held various roles in both New Zealand and Australia in management and has also recently completed his MBA. Having grown up near Muriwai Beach in Auckland, he has a keen interest in preserving the natural values at place and made the decision to return to New Zealand in 2021 and settle in Queenstown. He enjoys any sort of outdoor activity, including surfing, cycling, and tramping.  
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Tom McPhailTom McPhail
Tom is a member of the WCG Executive group. After a life of farming in Southland he retired to Frankton in 2012.
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Tom McPhailTom McPhail
Tom is a member of the WCG Executive group. After a life of farming in Southland he retired to Frankton in 2012. In the wilding control efforts and Tom was asked last year to come on to the executive to help with establishing the Adopt-a-Plot program. He has holidayed at Frankton since the mid 1950's and love the lake and mountain scenery. Tom enjoys the outdoors skiing, boating, 4WD'ing, tramping and cutting down wildings!  
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Briana PringleBriana Pringle
Briana is Parks and Open Spaces Planning Manager at Queenstown Lakes District Council. Bachelor of Forestry Science (BForSc) from Canterbury University...
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Briana PringleBriana Pringle
Briana is Parks and Open Spaces Planning Manager at Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC).  Bachelor of Forestry Science (BForSc) from Canterbury University.  Briana represents QLDC as a stakeholder in WCG and is a WCG advisor. Briana was the original Manager of WCG for over ten years and brings a wealth of experience, expertise and passion to the Whakatipu wilding control scene. Based in Queenstown since 2007, she previously worked for Forestry Companies in Central North Island, before heading back to the mainland!
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Jon WhiteJon White
Jon has had a strong interest in conservation throughout his long career in public service.
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Jon WhiteJon White
Jon has had a strong interest in conservation throughout his long career in public service. Now that he has moved permanently to Queenstown and joined the WCG, he is actively supporting the restoration of the natural landscape through wilding control and the regeneration of native trees and plants.
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Sue RoseSue Rose
Sue is the WCG Funding Manager and makes initial contact with local landowners.
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Sue RoseSue Rose
Sue is the WCG Funding Manager and makes initial contact with local landowners. She has been in the Whakatipu for nearly 25 years bringing up her family here and joined the WCG team in 2019 as a contractor, working closely with the DOC operations team, WCG stakeholders and the WCG Executive team. Sue’s background is in Event Management, Tourism, Media and Sales with a BA in Politics and English and Grad Dip in Business Studies. Sue’s interests include anything outdoors, tramping, camping, mountain biking, skiing, hiking and picnicking in any scenic Southern Lakes area with friends and family. Her interests have given her a passion for saving our native Tussocklands and Beech forests by eradicating and containing the spread of NZ’s number one pest plant, wilding pines. Contact: srose@whakatipuwilding.co.nz
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Will McBethWill McBeth
Will is the DOC Senior Ranger for Wilding Conifer Control and the WCG Project manager.
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Will McBethWill McBeth
Will is the DOC Senior Ranger for Wilding Conifer Control and the WCG Project Manager. With a New Zealand Certificate in Tree Felling and Clearing (Non-Production) and a 20 year career in conservation, Will brings to the team a broad skill set of helicopter logistics, field experience, GIS mapping and contractor management. He is also a member of the Glenorchy Volunteer Rural Fire brigade, with firefighting experience that includes international deployments to Canada and Australia. Originally from the Kapiti coast but is now based in Glenorchy with his wife and 5 children, Will’s spare time is devoted to family time, hunting and fire brigade.
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Graeme WatsonGraeme Watson
Graeme is involved with farming, fly fishing guiding tourism and is a Trustee of the Waiau Fisheries & Wildlife Habitat Enhancement Trust. He is a former Chairman of Southland Fish & Game and was a representative of the QEII National Trust for 8 years.
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Graeme WatsonGraeme Watson
Graeme is involved with farming, fly fishing guiding tourism and is a Trustee of the Waiau Fisheries & Wildlife Habitat Enhancement Trust. He is a former Chairman of Southland Fish & Game and was a representative of the QEII National Trust for 8 years. Graeme first walked the Ben Lomond track in 1963. He shares an “Adopt a Plot" on Ben Lomond with family and friends. Graeme is committed to helping volunteers and stakeholders focus on our mountain views, rivers, ski fields and walking tracks to ensure native biodiversity isn't lost due to the rapid spread of wilding trees.
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Bryan HutchinsBryan Hutchins
Bryan was CEO of Real Journeys for over 25 years and retired from that position in 2002
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Bryan HutchinsBryan Hutchins
Bryan was CEO of Real Journeys for over 25 years and retired from that position in 2002. Bryan remains a Director of Real Journeys Limited.  Bryan has a passion for conservation.  Bryan’s interests include sailing,  he and his wife Penny have travelled the world over the last six years.
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Jess ThomsonJess Thomson
Jess works in the ORC Biosecurity and Rural Liaison team and represents the Otago Region on the National Wilding Conifer Programme.
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Jess ThomsonJess Thomson
Jess is the Procurement and Contracts Coordinator for the Biosecurity and Rural Liaison team at Otago Regional Council (ORC) and represents the Otago Region on the National Wilding Conifer Programme and offers invaluable support as part of the WCG team.
Jess studied a BAppSc at Otago University in Environmental Management and Ecology. Prior to her time at ORC, Jess was in the Parks Team at Queenstown Lakes District Council for 4 years.
In her spare time, Jess enjoys tramping, walking and the great outdoors.

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Jo PhelanJo Phelan
Jo is the Volunteer Coordinator for WCG engaged to grow the volunteer base and organise wilding control work through volunteer days and the Adopt-a-Plot programme
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Jo PhelanJo Phelan
Jo is the Volunteer Coordinator for WCG engaged to grow the volunteer base and organise wilding control work through volunteer days and the Adopt-a-Plot programme, where volunteers clear and maintain an allocated area either side of the Ben Lomond Track.  She has been in the Whakatipu for 26 years and has developed a passion for the outdoors through mountain biking, multisport, snowboarding, and running & trekking around the hills with her dog Roo.  Jo first got interested in pulling out wildings through helping a friend who has an Adopt-a-Plot, and from pulling out the wildings encroaching on her favourite walk around Fernhill Loop. Contact: volunteer@whakatipuwilding.co.nz
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Our Sponsors

logo-queenstown-lake-district-councillogo-skyline-queenstowncentral lakes trust logologo-skycity
Otago Regional Council Eco-Fund logo-lottery-grants-board QE 2 logo

WCG Funding Partners

Queenstown Lakes District Council • Skyline EnterprisesCentral Lakes TrustLotteries Grant Board Environment and Heritage fund QLDCDepartment of ConservationLINZ  • NZTA • Cecil Peak Station • Mt Nicholas Station • Closeburn Station • Elfin Bay Station • Ben Lomond Station • Queenstown Hill Station • Coronet Peak Station • Waitiri Station • Halfway Bay Station • Mt Difficulty Station • Remarkables Station • Loch Linnhe Station • Cone Peak Station • Lowburn Station • Pioneer EnergySouthland Building • Scope Enterprises

National Wilding Conifer Management Group

For access to the National Wilding Conifer Management Strategy 2015-2030, the Wilding Risk Calculator and updates on national news and events, click on the link below.

www.wildingconifers.org.nz

FAQ

Who are the Whakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group Inc (WCG)?
The WCG is a community organisation which was created in April 2009 in response to local concerns about the rampant, exponential spread of wilding pines and is a charitable ‘not-for-profit’ organisation.  It partners with key stakeholders; QLDC, DOC, ORC, LINZ and landowners/managers.  The WCG are focused on protecting the resplendent biodiversity and remarkable landscape of the Whakatipu, for the benefit of residents, users, tourists and particularly future generations.
What are they doing?
The WCG is in a dynamic partnership with QLDC, DOC, LINZ, ORC and supporting Trusts, volunteers, Landowners and Managers.  An enthusiastic community and businesses support the aim to control the rampant and exponential wilding pine spread in the Whakatipu.
Why are wilding pines a threat?
New Zealand’s native bush supports a wide variety of native species. In contrast, wilding pine forests generally only support other wilding pines. They are very dense – taking the sun, water and nutrients that other plants need. Once wilding pines start to produce cones, the wind quickly spreads their seeds. As an area is infested the number of wilding pines increases rapidly, with new trees in turn producing more seeds. If we don’t act now wilding pines could cover more than 25% of New Zealand within 30 years. Every year wilding pines cost New Zealand millions of dollars in losses to primary production, resources spent on control and environmental costs.
How is the programme funded?
The work programme is funded by a wide range of  partners.  This includes Queenstown Lakes District Council, the Department of Conservation, Land Information New Zealand, Otago Regional Council and concerned landowners/managers. Currently, the Whakatipu is part of a four year National Wilding Programme funded by the Ministry of Primary Industries which began in 2020/21. The WCG has also appreciated funding from Skyline Enterprises, Central Lakes Trust, The Lotteries Commission, previous government funding and other important funders/trusts.
How are the pines controlled?
The pines are controlled using a wide range of tools, from ground crews with loppers and saws to targeted aerial spot spraying or boom spraying.  Queenstown has variable wilding sites, the spread, topography and species are unique to each area and therefore a ‘one tool’ fits all approach is not suitable.  Each site is assessed to determine the most cost effective tool. WCG uses the latest research, chemical and application rates and works with research agencies in developing and trialling chemicals and rates.
How safe are the control operations?
The WCG always uses best practice and takes every precaution to ensure wilding pine control operations are carried out safely with acceptable buffers around waterways.  All operations comply with the Otago Regional Council Air Plan and all herbicides used in wilding operations are commonly used in agriculture on broom and gorse and all aerial operations will be publically notified.
Will native plants and animals be affected?
In aerial operations it is always possible that some native plants could be damaged, particularly woody species such as Matagouri that grow on the fringes of sprayed areas.  Damage to tussock is expected to be minimal.  The long term impact of wilding forests is much greater than any inadvertent effect on native vegetation.  If we do not remove the wilding pines then all native vegetation is eliminated as it will be displaced by the wildings.
How long before wilding pines die?
Sprayed trees will take up to two years to die off.  Just how long the dead pines will remain standing will vary depending on rainfall, humidity, the amount of sunshine etc.  Treated pines tend to ‘melt’ rather than just fall over.  First the needles, then the limbs, then the top section and so on. The visual appearance of the hillside will steadily improve as native vegetation takes hold.  Most importantly this means that vast tracts of surrounding high country areas have been protected and they will retain their high country charm.
Can the pines be used, rather than just being killed?
Pines will be used for production forestry when this is economical.  However only a small percentage of logs from the larger wilding pines are usable for timber.  In some cases the time and resources needed to extract the wilding pines for logging or firewood outweighs the commercial return of the timber produced.
What is the WCG's long-term plan?
WCG developed and adopted the current Strategy in 2013.  The strategy plan enables a focused approach to the control of wilding conifers, it provides funders confidence that funds expended will maximise the benefit to the affected landscapes.
  • ALERT - the community to the exponential spread and cost of wilding control
  • COMMUNICATE - the WCG programme of control and the projected effects of no-control
  • ERADICATE - all seeding trees where necessary
  • CONTAIN - non-removable wilding areas and planted forests
  • HAND BACK - control maintenance to landowners, DOC and QLDC at the end of period
All control operations are recorded on the QLDC or DOC wilding databases and data is available dating back to 2006 when spatial areas were first recorded.  WCG's strategy plan is due to be renewed in 2021.
  • WCG also work in conjunction with the New Zealand Wilding Conifer Management Strategy 2015-2030.
What will happen after the five year strategy?
Because not all trees are being removed, there will be on-going maintenance, but this project is a big push that will bring the maintenance back to much more manageable levels.  At the end of the five year strategy eradication, all areas will be handed back to the landowners and agencies responsible for Reserves. Goals will be developed with individual land lessees/owners which include the influence of stocking and de-stocking in controlling seedling wildings.
What Pines are spreading in the Whakatipu?
In the Whakapitu the following species have wilding spread:
  • Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)
  • Contorta or lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta)
  • Scots pine (Pinus sylestris)
  • European larch (Larix decidua)
  • Corsican pine (Pinus nigra)
  • Bishops Pine (Pinus muricate)
  • Ponderosa Pine (Pinus Ponderosa)
  • Mountain Pine (Pinus mugo)
  • Maritime Pine (Pinus pinaster)
 
Don’t we need these trees to tackle climate change?
While wilding pines can help with climate change, their impact on the environment outweighs any benefit they could offer. On the whole it is better for the environment to remove them. Most wilding pines are not included in New Zealand’s Emissions Trading Scheme because of the threat to New Zealand’s unique biodiversity. There are better options for removing carbon from the atmosphere.

Please get in touch with any questions we haven’t been able to answer by filling out the form below

Contact Us

We would love to hear from you. To get in touch, please fill in the form to the right with your details  and message and click submit.