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Thorny weed problem tackled on Kapiti Coast bush covenant

Media release

1 March 2017

Professional animal trainers James Delaney and Caroline Girdlestone are used to getting critters to do what they want, but controlling invasive barberry on their Kapiti Coast block is proving a tougher challenge.

The prickly pervasive weed has grown to four metres in height in some places, and is the one weed species that James and Caroline are still struggling with after two decades of busting weeds on their property.

James and Caroline bought the block back in 1996 and they got straight into fencing off the bush remnant and dealing with the pests and weeds that had been free ranging for far too long.

“This was an absolute priority for us,’ says James.

“The weeds were a ticking time bomb, and the bush was on the brink of collapse because of them.”

In 2001 James and Caroline protected the bush area with a covenant through QEII National Trust. Over the years, Greater Wellington Regional Council and Kapiti Coast District Council have supported James and Caroline with funding for their weedbusting efforts.

While most other weeds are now under control, the barberry has proved to be the toughest challenge. It is difficult to control using manual methods or the traditional ‘cut and paste’ approach because its dense growth habit and sharp spines makes it hard to reach the trunks with handtools.

With support from the QEII Community Weedbusting Project, James and Caroline will be trying something new on the barberry – basal control, where a specially formulated spray can be applied to the trunks without the operator having to get too close and personal with prickly stems and foliage.

“I have high hopes for this control method, and if its successful it will mean much less labour and a less painful way to get the barberry under control,” says James.

QEII regional representative John Williamson says weeds like barberry are a community issue and dealing with them protects surrounding properties.

“As well as protecting the biodiversity values of James and Caroline’s bush remnant, controlling this barberry will get rid of a prolific seed source that is spread by birds to other areas,” says John.

QEII Community Weedbusting Project spokesperson, Mike Urlich, who organised the $1000 grant for the basal spray for this weedbusting work, agrees.

“James and Caroline’s efforts not only enhance the natural and visual values of their Kapiti Coast bush remnant, but also help to reduce the impact of the barberry in the surrounding landscape,” says Mike.

James and Caroline hope that their efforts will inspire others to help in the battle against the thorny environmental weed.

“If you are lucky enough to have a bush remnant like we do, you need to take care of it,” James says.

“We are passionate about the environment and about leaving a good footprint behind. We hope our kids will carry on the work that we have started.”


Photo captions: 
1. Darwin's barberry in flower.

2. James Delaney and QEII regional representative John Williamson getting ready to take on barberry with a new basal control approach.

More Information

James Delaney and Caroline Girdlestone’s bush covenant is a Kapiti Coast District Council eco-site because of its high landscape and biodiversity values. Coastal flora such as nikau and kohekohe grow on the western sides of the hills and gullies and typical lowland forest plants such as rimu, tawa-titoki and riwariwa/native honeysuckles on its inland eastern side. Giant weatherbeaten matai and totara stand tall on the ridge tops.

James and Caroline are professional animal trainers and run their business from the property. Some of the projects they have been involved with are very well-known, such as training animals for the film ‘Babe’, the piglet in the Vodofone advertisements, and the dog ‘Wilson’ of Lotto advertisement fame.

Environmental weeds pose an insidious threat to New Zealand’s natural heritage and are a major issue for anyone managing natural areas. Weeds impact on our iconic landscapes, fragment habitats, degrade protected areas and suppress natural regeneration. Environmental weeds reduce the productivity of the natural heritage that New Zealanders value, protect, and are working to restore. Environmental weeds are an issue for all regions of New Zealand and effect all habitat types, including coastal, forest, alpine, riparian and wetland habitats. Environmental weeds pose a significant threat to threatened native plants that often have fragmented ranges or are range restricted.

Queen Elizabeth II (QEII) National Trust is an independent statutory organisation and registered charity that partners with private landowners to help them permanently protect special natural and cultural heritage sites on their land with covenants. It is the perpetual trustee for a network of over 4,000 covenants currently protecting around 180,000ha of New Zealand’s natural heritage.

Weedbusters NZ is national interagency programme launched in 2003 to raise awareness and interest in weeds issues, and to encourage individuals and communities to get active in environmental weed control. Weedbusters NZ is supported by the Department of Conservation, Ministry for Primary Industries, Landcare Research, Landcare Trust, Forest & Bird, the Nursery and Garden Industry NZ, QEII National Trust, all regional councils/unitary authorities, and the majority of district and city councils.

QEII Community Weedbusters Project is ajoint programme run by Weedbusters NZ and the QEII National Trust. Using a fund granted by DOC’s Community Conservation Partnership Fund, the project supports voluntary weedbusting efforts by community groups in priority regions around the country.

Spokesperson: Carolyn Lewis/Weedbusters co-ordinator – 027 443 4431

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