By Mary Jowett

We’ve got a plot of land in Queenstown. Access is a bit steep, but the mountain and lake views are stunning and well worth the hike. The plot is quite large, around an acre including what disappears over the ridge, and is covered in a diverse mix of native subalpine shrubs and tussocks . . . and pines.

There are lots of pines at various stages of maturity, which is why we have the plot. It’s part of the Whakatipu Conifer Control Group Adopt a Plot programme. It’s based on the higher slopes of Ben Lomond (One Mile) Basin where the wilding forest on the slopes around the Skyline Gondola has been spreading rapidly, and taking with it any biodiversity.

Set up in 2015, the ‘Adopt a Plot’ scheme was seen as a flexible way to direct volunteers to save the native vegetation by removing the smaller pines from the subalpine terrain without spray. While volunteer days are fun, other commitments often get in the way and the complexity of organisation is significant, not to mention trying to juggle the weather. And the ‘ownership’ of a plot gives people a realistic area to clear, without getting overwhelmed with the magnitude of the job, which is huge.



As early adopters of the scheme, we managed to get a plot lower down along the Ben Lomond trail, complete with a named survey post defining the extent. It’s not far from access, especially as Skyline Enterprises provides an annual pass for our family of cutters.

However being close to the source means there is a constant sprouting of little greens to find. One can always count on some little green blighters to seek out and ‘gotcha’! Bonus is, it’s also a great location to educate users of the trail. After fielding questions from walkers and riders about what on earth I’m doing (and often if I’m okay), I go on to show them what a pest pine seedling looks like. I inform them that if they are enjoying the stunning environment around them, then they should start pulling out any they see — anywhere, anytime (except perhaps in private or council gardens).



Bit by bit, we can see a difference in not only our plot, but others’ too.

Come by and check us out! Walk up the Ben Lomond trail where you can check out the names (beautifully hot wired into timber pegs) and admire the hardy subalpine shrub cover, beetles and bugs. And of course, feel free to pull a pine, or ten. Not only will you feel the warm glow of doing your bit, but you’ll have lovely smelling hands. If you’d like to ‘Adopt a Plot’ too, check out details at


FMC thanks Mary Jowett for sharing his article, which is published here on Wilderlife as part of FMC’s 2021/22 focus on Volunteering for Biodiversity. To learn more, visit