The fire hazard is increased when wilding conifers dominate a landscape, especially if wilding trees are left unmanaged to grow up around residential areas.

The Fire Risk (ie. the probability of ignition) is increased by human interaction, increased walking and biking trails, development, roading, farming practices, and residential, – and Wilding conifer control does not contribute to that significantly.


Fire Hazard is affected by the vegetation and that expansion of infestations and ‘Scattered Wilding spread’ increases the Fire hazard significantly.

For a limited time felled pines and sprayed pines do contribute to the Fire hazard, but control overall provides a twofold benefit; as controlled wilding wastes degrade and subside, the hazards lower and the limiting of further spread prevents the formation of the highest hazard – Sporadic wildings environment (Scattered stands of short to medium height Wildings interspersed with fine fuels – grasses and light scrub).

Wilding Fire Risk Queenstown
Whakatipu wilding infestation mapping overlaid on the Queenstown Red Zone map which, not by coincidence, almost exactly matches where our most extreme infestations are.

“A changing climate is increasing the frequency and severity of wildfires and our indigenous forests, once considered safe from fire, are under threat. The risks are escalating too – especially for those living within the rural-urban interface. For example, the 2020 Lake Ōhau wildfire is the country’s most damaging wildfire in living memory. It destroyed most of the houses in the Mackenzie Basin’s Lake Ōhau Alpine Village, burning through more than 5000 hectares. The costs were huge too – fighting the fire from the air cost $1.2 million, while insurance losses were around $35 million.”
Scion Research

“Fire and Emergency New Zealand recognise the high fire danger posed by wilding pines. The 2005 Closeburn fire highlighted this risk. The Closeburn fire, started by fireworks,  threatened and caused the evacuation of several communities along the lake edge between Queenstown and Bobs Cove. A large multi-agency response was required to manage this fire and support local communities affected by the fire. Luckily no lives or homes were lost but some properties were damaged. As a result of this fire the area between Rat Point and Arthurs Point above Queenstown has been designated a High Fire Risk Zone (Called the Queenstown Red Zone).

The steep slopes and heavy fuel loading of wilding conifers around and below communities in the red zone means these communities continue to be vulnerable to wildfire. Wild pine management can play an important part in the reduction of fuels around communities.

Fire and Emergency NZ recommend all residents carry out vegetation management around their homes to better protect themselves in the event of a wildfire. Go  for advice and guidance on fire risk mitigation.”

Mark Mawhinney
Advisor Risk Reduction – Fire Emergency New Zealand

Conifer Forest Fire

Wildfires from wilding pines have been shown to be more severe than fires involving the vegetation they replace. Wilding pine forests don’t have firebreaks or fire ponds. They can grow in remote and difficult terrain and so are much more difficult to fight.

Flock Hill Fire

Fires in wilding pine forests are likely to burn hot and this can increase the threat to adjoining native bush, commercial forests, infrastructure and human life. For example, the Flock Hill fire in January 2015, saw a fire affecting 330 hectares of land, largely occupied by wilding pine forest, threatening Castle Hill village and Craigieburn Forest.

“Independent analysis shows that areas of dense wilding pines increase the intensity and impacts of wildfires with the amount of resources needed for fire protection also increasing.”

Sapere Research Group