Wilding pines removal provides jobs for COVID-displaced workers

Central government funding has allowed for the creation of extra jobs in new wilding pines removal projects in Canterbury, primarily hiring people impacted by the economic fallout of COVID-19.

Of the $3 million COVID-relief funding made available by the government, $1.9 million went to Canterbury wilding pine removal projects. Three geographically separate areas were identified as being ideally suited, and six local contractors were tasked with hiring new staff.

Creating jobs for hard-hit sectors

Regional Biosecurity Leader, Graham Sullivan, said the scheme has targetted those working in the hard-hit tourism industry who have lost their jobs, such as mountain guides, helicopter pilots and crew.

"These people are an important part of our rural community and we want to assist them to stay in the area.”

Full training is offered to the new recruits, including how to cut down the trees and treat the stumps to prevent regrowth. Health and safety training is also essential, especially in terms of chainsaw use.

To date, 71 people have been employed, with most on six-month contracts or longer. Around 82% of those have come from the tourism sector.

Special Projects Biosecurity Officer, Lance Smith, said the funding and recruitment boost allowed the team to break the back of the problem in some very infested areas.

“We were in one area recently of around 2,000 hectares that we were able to get through in a couple of weeks – and that was amazing."

Satisfying results

Watch video on how wilding pines projects are giving workers a lifeline

Recently employed tree technician, Jakob Dawson, said: “It’s good being able at the end of the day to see all the trees that you’ve cut down. It’s quite satisfying.”

Sullivan added: “The ability to offer employment to those who have lost their jobs because of COVID-19 is wonderful – especially as they are now working to help eradicate these pest plants, which typically destroy our native biodiversity values.”

See our video on how the wilding pines projects are giving workers a lifeline (04:18).

Budget funding has also helped to bolster the wilding pine efforts – with the announcement in May of $100 million for the National Wilding Conifer Management Programme over the next four years, frontloaded in years one and two ($40 million and $32 million, respectively).

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