Resort’s evergreen volunteer

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At 82, Peter Willsman doesn’t let the grass grow under his feet, let alone any wilding pines. On the verge of releasing his memoirs, he tells Philip Chandler why he got involved with wilding pine control and talks about his life before he ‘retired’ to Queenstown

Age doesn’t weary Queenstowner Peter Willsman.

Pushing 83, he’s a living example of why you don’t need to pull stumps when you stop work.

Since retiring from the ministry 18 years ago and moving to Queenstown, he’s played a pivotal role in the battle to preserve the Wakatipu’s natural beauty by destroying wilding pines.

Ten years ago, he was founding chairman of the Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group (WCG).

Putting about 30 hours a week into the cause, he helped secure major funding for control work.

He’s also helped create public awareness of the problem, and got landowners onboard.

“When we started, as soon you got a helicopter and people saw spraying, my phone would go, ‘what are you doing?’

“I rarely get a call now.”

Awarded the Queen’s Service Medal for his services to conservation and the community, he stepped down as WCG co-chair in 2016, but still lends a hand.

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