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Little love lost over pesky lupins

Lupins in the garden may look pretty, but in Canterbury, they are considered a pest. PHOTO/STOCK.ADOBE.COM

Invasive Russell lupins dot the Wairarapa countryside with speckles of yellow, and while South Islanders have a love-hate relationship with the purple and pink varieties, there’s little love lost in Wairarapa.

And there is no easy fix for the problem plant, as elected members discussed at Thursday night’s Martinborough Community Board.

Russell lupins rapidly invade rocky braided river systems, and the thick bushes provide hiding places for predators of birds that are often endangered and would usually nest safely on these bare islands.

South Wairarapa farmer Mike Firth said the issue started years ago when Stoney Creek, near White Rock, was planted in lupin seeds to secure slip areas.

He spoke with community board members and councillors about his concerns.

“That lupin has gone absolutely berserk, and it’s actually growing right along the edge of the roads now and creating quite a dangerous situation in that you can’t see around corners anymore, as well as closing the road in.

“Once we hit summertime, I think that will become a really big fire hazard as well.

“We’ve already had a fire out here recently caused by a smoke butt tossed out the window, and we’re only in November.”

He asked elected members whether the council could mow, spray, or maintain the lupins “because it’s quite hazardous”.

Mayor Alex Beijen agreed and said the lupin problem was “quite bad” along White Rock Rd in coastal Martinborough.

“Lupins are a terrible problem,” he said.

“I have been out with the chief executive to discuss this at rural areas, especially out at White Rock.

“It’s been exacerbated over the years by a lot of roading crews pulling roading gravel from various streams that have already had lupin seeds distributed through them, and that has spread it hugely – and that’s over the course of 20 years.”

He said the district council had a programme of work under way of spraying the road edges to kill weeds.

“But the only way really to control lupins is to have them declared a noxious plant under the Greater Wellington Regional Council.

“The problem when that happens is that it becomes the responsibility of the landowners to remove them aggressively, and that is potentially a huge burden on the farming community.”

He said lupin control was something he wanted to discuss further.

“It’s a huge problem, but I’m nervous about going down that route with the regional council.”

Pink and purple varieties of the Russell lupin are often associated with springtime in the Canterbury region in the South Island, but the plant has been officially designated as a pest there under the Biosecurity Act.

Canterbury’s regional pest management plan makes it illegal to grow the plant within specified distances of waterways and property boundaries.

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