A decade-long project that is changing the skyline and ecology of the Abel Tasman National Park has reached a new milestone.
Dead and dying wilding pines are the end result of the community-led project that has successfully removed the invasive trees from high priority areas of the park, allowing more native vegetation to thrive.
The project reached a milestone last week with the signing of an accord with the Department of Conservation (DOC) which will now take over the project to ensure the wilding conifers do not re-establish in the park.
Over the last 10 years the Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust, Project Janszoon, DOC, tourism operators, contractors and volunteers have poured time and money into controlling all major stands of wilding conifers in priority areas and the first round of seedling control undertaken.
The NEXT Foundation, DOC and Project Janszoon signed a handover agreement last Friday under the Tomorrow Accord in which DOC agrees to maintain the gains achieved. The accord was established in 2014 between the Crown and the NEXT Foundation, to ensure ecological transformations are protected when restoration targets are met.
Project Janszoon was launched in 2012 by the philanthropists Neal and Annette Plowman to transform the ecological prospects of the park.
Project Janszoon provided the investment and expertise to accelerate wilding conifer control work which had been started by the Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust – a local conservation group formed in 2007 to bring the birds back to the Abel Tasman National Park.
At their peak, wilding conifers infested 10,000 ha (almost 50 per cent) of the park and risked damaging the iconic Separation Point granite ecosystem for which this park is renowned. They also crowded out native trees that provide food for native birdlife.
Alistair Sheat, chair of the Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust, said the trust recognised that wilding pines had no place in the park in 2010.
Key trustees with the help of R&D Environmental director Andrew Macalister raised over $600,000 through the NZ Lottery Grants Board to launch an audacious project to rid the park of the invasive pines.
“In 2014, Project Janszoon joined in partnership with the Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust to help accelerate the project and get to where it is now.”
Project Janszoon board chair Gillian Wratt said the Tomorrow Accord gave everyone involved in the project the security of knowing progress made would remain for future generations.
“What started as a community initiative to bring the birds back to the Abel Tasman has also resulted in a major restoration achievement that can be seen on the skyline of the park.”
The handover was a fitting milestone to mark Project Janszoon’s 10th year.
“Removal of wilding conifers from priority areas of the park has been a remarkable achievement that helps secure the healthy functioning of park ecosystems. DOC is pleased to continue to maintain this ecological gain by taking on the ongoing task of surveillance for re-invading conifers and removing seedlings as they establish.”
Project Janszoon will re-focus its resources over the next five years on achieving further Tomorrow Accord targets. These include consolidating kākā, pāteke/brown teal and whio populations, continued weed and pest control, and restoration of coastal and forest ecosystems.