A pair of Queenstown neighbours aiming to transform the perception of invasive wilding pine trees, from pest to commodity, say they have been overwhelmed by the demand for their product.

Mathurin Molgat and Michael Sly have spent the last three years refining a range of essential oils extracted from Queenstown's wilding pine - the name given to pine trees that spring up uninvited.

The pair formed Wilding and Co in April 2013 with another friend Dave Turnbull in what Molgat says is, "a professional formulation of our vision and ideas".

The ex-professional skier and environmental film-maker says spraying wilding pines with herbicides doesn't sit well with his environmental ethics.


The Department of Conservation recognises that the 73,000 hectares of wilding pine in Queenstown pose a serious and ongoing threat to the native flora, fauna and landscape of the area.

There must be a more financially viable and sustainable alternative to the current spraying programme, managed by Wakatipu Wilding Confer Control Group, he says.

"Can we find a value change for that product? Is there a way to harvest that tree? Do something with it rather than just throw it away."

Sly had been playing around with distillation when the possibility of distilling pine oil came up in conversation with Molgat. In 2012 the pair's first batch of Queenstown Douglas Fir essential oil was distilled in a small distillery unit.

"When we did it we thought, 'This is particularly nice', and we bought some other pine oils and compared it to ours and it was like, 'Wow we seem to have something special here, could we have an effect on the wilding pine problem in Queenstown?'," Molgat says.

Samples of the oil were sent to an essential oil scientist overseas who he says was quick to place an annual order of six and a half tonnes.

"At the moment, the only system we have for eradicating pine costs a huge amount of money so if there's some return then surely it makes it viable," says Molgat.

"It creates jobs and in our case creates an industry so we'd end up with a New Zealand pine oil that the world wants."

Essential pine tree oil has a variety of antiseptic, antibacterial, antibiotic, antimicrobial and antifungal properties. Wilding and Co has formed a partnership with a commercial cleaning product company, Kemsol Green, which has developed a range of cleaning products infused with the oil. Wilding and Co plan to sell infused candles and bath products, too.

Molgat says the New Zealand pine oil is sweeter and more delicate than others, which makes it a good component for perfumes and fragrances.

"We are discovering new uses for it, I guess, that we hadn't known," he says.

The company has signed an memorandum of understanding with DOC, which gives the company access to wilding trees on public and private land.

Mathurin says the community is eager to support the company too, and he gets emails every day from people offering up the wilding pine on their property for harvesting.

"People are quite concerned about New Zealand's green image and it kind of fi ts the whole ethic of who we are portrayed as overseas - pure New Zealand - and this story fi ts really well."

The company now has access to close to a million hectares of wilding pines.

Wilding and Co's innovation hasn't stopped at essential oil. In trying to streamline the collection of the mass amount of trees being offered to them the company has invented a mobile vacuum distillery.

The dry bio-waste from the mobile distillery makes an efficient fuel too, which Molgat says shows the potential of wilding pine as a multiple use, cyclical product.

He laughs when people ask him what the firm would do if it ran out of pines. That would be the "ultimate exit strategy" he says.

"If ever we got to the point where there were no wilding pines I guess it's been a 100 percent success and we fold the company and we do something else. That would be a great problem to have."

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