Chris has been on top of a number of weeds beginning to invade the small township of Omapere in the South Hokianga. Among these are wild ginger, woolly nightshade, boneseed, elaeagnus and moth plant. Elaeagnus and moth plant are in relatively low numbers and this is the time to get onto them to stop another pest plant becoming established. This is true only of elaeagnus and moth plant - the others are/were widespread
Chris became involved in weedbusting in 2004 through participation in Department of Conservation working bees at the Arai-te-Uru reserve in Omapere. Boneseed on the DOC reserve was the trigger for getting into other weeds. In 2007 with the help from Northland Regional Council Land Management officer, Doug Foster, Chris applied for funding from the council to help with chemicals and the work stepped up a notch. Some of the weeds issues tackled over the years have been three very large infestations of wild ginger in land neglected by its owners (one overseas), and efforts to contain the relatively-localised infestations of boneseed, elaeagnus and moth plant. One landowner with boneseed mistakenly thought it was an ornamental (!), but is now better-informed and supportive.
Chris is currently working on woolly nightshade at the northern end of Opononi, the seed source for the roadside and further south.
For Chris, Hokianga is such a beautiful place and weed busting is an opportunity to make a difference in the environment. Vigilance with weeds new to the area is very important to help prevent their establishment and is time well spent for future generations. Preventing new weeds from establishing in the area and working to remove nearby seed sources and pockets of weeds is Chrisís main aim.
One person can make a difference to a community and an environment with regular work sessions. One of the highlights of Chrisís work has been seeing regeneration of native trees and shrubs in areas cleared of ginger and other pests. The only downside is that the increasing growth makes the bush harder to penetrate to hunt down the last remaining pests. Lantana is also a localised problem and Chris currently slashes when he finds it which hopefully gives natives the chance to grow and overshadow it
In general, locals are very supportive (one gave Chris $100 for work on her land) but unfortunately the support doesnít translate into practical help. While people are quite community-minded up here, volunteers are mostly elderly women who would be ill-equipped for manual labour on steep terrain.
Chris was reasonably au fait with identifying pest plants, having earlier worked on removal of elaeagnus near my former home in Eastbourne, Wellington. Ginger was also present in small amounts. However identification of moth plant was through an item by Ken Massey in the local paper with a picture. Many people are poorly-informed about pest plants, and Chris uses every opportunity to increase their knowledge of pest identification and methods of control.
Only two landowners have ever been difficult - one, an elderly eccentric, claimed to use wild ginger to make a beverage (!). The other appears to have mental health issues. The worst thing is working on moth plant when it flowers in the summer, with a choice of roasting in full protective clothing or coming into contact with the irritant sap.