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Backdrop at risk: Arrowtown residents are worried plans to clear German Hill of wildings may destroy the village's autumn aesthetic

By LUCY WORMALD

Concerns Arrowtown’s wilding programme may destroy the town’s iconic ‘‘alpine’’  aesthetic have been raised by residents.

The programme, supported by Arrowtown Wilding Group and Arrowtown Choppers, removes wilding conifers from the surrounding hills to stop the spread of the invasive species from overrunning areas of native biodiversity.

Thousands of trees have been removed by the programme to date, and locals are concerned that larch trees — wilding conifers that also produce some of Arrowtown’s
world-famous autumn colours — on German Hill are next on the chopping block.

Former Arrowtown Village Association (AVA) chairman and long-time local Richard Newman says the removal of these trees will create ‘‘a real mess’’.

‘Removal by stealth’: Arrowtown resident Richard Newman

‘‘Arrowtown’s an alpine town and all those beautiful colours are going to be destroyed … it’s going to look like a bomb’s gone off.’’

He says the programme has already ‘‘gone too far’’ without community consultation.

‘‘A lot of people just don’t know what’s going on.

‘‘They’re doing it by stealth in my belief … one side of the hill has already been done and it looks terrible.’’

“It’s heartbreaking”

A Berkshire Street resident with a direct view of the hill, who declined to be named, says everyone she has spoken with is ‘‘horrified’’ at the prospect of ‘‘a barren German Hill’’.

‘‘People come here in the autumn to see the colours of the hills around us and we can’t
believe it’s happening.

‘‘It’s all very well culling some of the trees but to actually kill them, it’s heartbreaking.’’

German Hill is part of Coronet Peak Station pastoral lease, held by Soho Property Ltd and protected by a Queen Elizabeth II National Trust covenant.

Soho Property representative Jo Booker says they’re keen to see the area rid of wilding
species, and it’s important to remember the land is privately owned.

‘‘The community has been really supportive of the Arrowtown Choppers in turning out for removal and planting days, so I think the bulk of the community is in favour of what’s going on.’’

German Face removal ”most challenging aspect”

Wilding programme lead Ben Teele says he appreciates the concern of some locals  around the potential removal of the larch, and such a plan would only happen after community and landowner consultation.

No set plans to remove larch: Wilding programme lead Ben Teele

‘‘The larch removal on German Face was always going to be the most challenging aspect
of the wilding strategy due to the visual sensitivity.’’

He says removal of the larch would be ‘‘ideal’’ to prevent on going spread into the hills, however the current scope of the wilding programme has been pulling back the wilding
infestation while ensuring autumn colours across Tobin’s Face were preserved.

‘‘There are no set plans to remove those larch as part of the current programme, it would need to be part of its own special project with community input,’’ he says.

Locals’ concerns were discussed at an AVA meeting last week, but its chairwoman Susan Rowley says the association is committed to reaching ‘‘zero wilding pines’’ in the area.

Feedback on wilding tree removal is ‘‘generational’’ in nature, with residents relating to
the aesthetic of wilding trees, as well as the more barren tree-scape of the ’70s, she says.

‘‘We now have a new generation growing up who in the future will relate to the current
situation but with the added aesthetic appeal of carefully-selected autumnal colours and
increased native biodiversity.’’

The AVA is welcoming feedback on species for revegetation of the area above Bush Creek, Rowley says.

lucy.wormald@scene.co.nz