Smaller sycamores culled young as fight continues

Keeping the coast clear . . . West Harbour Beautification Trust chairman Steve Walker (left) and volunteer-contractor Matt Thomson of Monowai Ecological Ltd work on eradicating sycamores along the St Leonards foreshore. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD

The war on sycamores continues in West Harbour, where volunteers have embarked on a project to track down and poison smaller specimens of the invasive plant.

Last week, members of the West Harbour Beautification Trust, under the guidance of Matt Thomson of Monowai Ecological Ltd, began the project in the area between Maia and St Leonards.

Trust chairman Steve Walker and Mr Thomson were out again on Monday with backpacks containing the relatively environmentally benign X-Tree Basal herbicide, which is sprayed directly on to the sycamores’ trunks to kill them.

Monday’s work included some stretches around St Leonards and a small area in Careys Bay to help prevent sea-wall damage.

Mr Walker said the project focused on sycamores ranging from 50cm up to about 3m in height, and followed on from the work carried out by Dunedin City Council contractors in Ravensbourne in recent years.

“That removal work has received almost universal acclaim and has restored a once blighted area back into a native wonderland,” Mr Walker said.

Poisoning the smaller sycamores was an attempt to prevent the fast-growing species from taking over to the extent they had in other parts of the city, such as Caversham, Frasers Gully and Signal Hill, he said.

“Sycamores are prolific and very hardy, so they quickly displace native vegetation if they are left,” Mr Thomson said.

“It’s best to get them when they are small and, using this method, we can keep the other vegetation around them intact.”

Mr Walker said by carrying out the relatively easy and cost-effective work now, the trust could potentially save ratepayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in future high-level sycamore removal.

“Prevention, in this case, is definitely easier and far more cost effective than the cure.”

The $1200 cost of the project came from the trust’s own savings and a grant from the West Harbour Community Board.

“Our team is completely voluntary and we can move quickly between areas as they appear, often highlighted by locals who have become attuned to recognising this pest tree in recent years.

“It’s so reassuring to see how many West Harbour residents have got in behind the sycamore removal programme.”