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September 2012 Issue
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Picture postcard pest

I think I mentioned Project Tongariro to you before? This is Waimarino Wetlands where they have carried out conservation work on willows in the past.

Golden autumn willows are the stuff of picture postcards, but not so for the Waimarino Wetland Reserve, just north of Turangi, and especially not for members of Project Tongariro (Tongariro Natural History Society).

The society is a community organisation that runs educational field trips and conservation projects across the Tongariro National Park. One project they currently run is the eradication of willows from Waimarino. Willows are an introduced weed. They clog waterways and create a sterile understory where native plants like flax and raupo can no longer grow. With no native plants, birds and animals are forced out and the natural wetland environment eventually disappears.

For the last six years, DOC and Project Tongariro volunteers have lopped and poisoned willows from Waimarino. Killing the willows using herbicide sprays was easy; but not killing native plants and animals was harder. Project Tongariro now estimate that within 10 years the wetlands will have regenerated to their natural state and the golden autumn colours will have been replaced by a natural landscape of dense reeds and low bush.

– Fraser Crichton