Progress . . . Work to remove invasive wilding pine infestations on the Benmore Peninsula is progressing as planned. PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN

About 32,000 new trees will be planted to improve soil quality on the Benmore Peninsula where wilding pines have been removed.

Work to remove invasive wilding pine infestations started last month and was “progressing as planned”, Environment Canterbury (ECan) regional leader of biosecurity Graham Sullivan said.

The Benmore Peninsula Track has been closed since mid-September, and will remain closed for about three months while harvesting is carried out in the area.

Due to the location of the track and the nature of the work, there was no safe way to open the track to the public until the work was complete, Ecan said.

“The track is currently closed and will reopen in December, subject to something unforeseen occurring,” Mr Sullivan said.

The harvesting work is being carried out by PF Olsen, on behalf of Meridian and Land Information New Zealand, which each own and manage adjoining land on the peninsula. It is being overseen by ECan. Funding comes from the National Wilding Conifer Control Programme, and timber from the harvested pines was expected to be sold to reduce the cost of control.

At present, wilding pines were ECan’s “most serious pest threat”, and removing them was essential to protect native biodiversity, land value and landscapes, Mr Sullivan said.

Meridian renewable development programme manager Mark Harris said removing wilding pines and replanting the area with a mix of native plants, including eco-sourced totara, was a first step towards returning the ecosystem to its natural state.

“This spring, Meridian grew our Forever Forests programme by 36ha, planting sterile exotics and hardy natives,” Mr Harris said.

“The 32,000 new trees will start to improve soil quality along Lakes Benmore and Aviemore.

“We’ve learned through local planting trials that a mixed planting model is the best way our forests can improve soil conditions and support native species. Through this model we can build the foundation for future native forests and biodiverse habitats.”Running sport mediaNike