Wilding conifer app wins international award

Dave Mole and Jerome Sheppard receive Esri Award

July 13, 2018

The National Wilding Conifer Control Programme is a partnership between LINZ, the Ministry for Primary Industries, the Department of Conservation, the New Zealand Defence Force, regional and district councils, forestry, farming and community groups.

LINZ leads the information work stream component of the National Wilding Conifer Control Programme, which has involved developing the WCIS.

The WCIS won a New Zealand Spatial Excellence Award in November 2017

Land Information New Zealand’s spatial tool for tracking the spread of wilding conifers has picked up an international award for its innovative ability to capture data about one of the nation’s most invasive pests.

The Wilding Conifer Information System (WCIS) is a web-based mapping and monitoring tool designed to ensure control of this invasive species is carried out in the most efficient way possible.

This week it won a Special Achievement in GIS Award from the United States-based organisation Esri, which specialises in designing and developing geographic information systems. This is the second award for the system.

LINZ Director of Biosecurity and Biodiversity Dave Mole travelled to San Diego to receive the award.

“This was hugely significant for us. Having been chosen from more than 300,000 candidates, we were one of 180 organisations from around the world to receive an award. The accolade recognises the WCIS for its innovative use of mapping, data analytics and thought leadership. 

“We designed the tool to support the work taking place as part of the National Wilding Conifer Control Programme. When research was first being carried out to establish the programme we had pockets of data across authorities so it was difficult to accurately quantify the extent of the problem. Now the system has painted a complete picture across the country.

“Our mapping has shown the trees cover around 2 million hectares and continue to spread.”

Wilding conifers in the distance that have been treated as part of the National Progamme. In the foreground are beach trees. The image was taken near Queenstown.

Wilding conifers are fast-growing, hardy and prolific and pose a serious threat to native landscapes. Around 10 different exotic tree species are classed as wilding conifers and they can be found in conservation areas, productive farmland and iconic high country vistas.

“In the wrong place, they take over native ecosystems, out-compete other species, and soak up significant water resources”, says Mr Mole.

Given their rapid spread, at a rate of about 90,000ha per year, it was estimated that wilding conifers would affect 20 per cent of New Zealand within 20 years. Preventing their spread was becoming critical, which was why the national programme was established in 2015. 

“The WCIS will play an integral part in measuring the success of the programme. We now have staff from a range of authorities out in the field using it to map wilding conifer distribution, density and control efforts,” says Mr Mole.

“We hope to eventually open the system up to the public so that anyone can log wilding conifers when they see them.”

Wildings at Flock Hill Station

Wilding conifers starting to spread at Flock Hill Station