After at least 15 years' effort to remove pink ragwort from Whitiau Scientific Reserve the teams of weed pullers will not be out this year, Conservation Department community supervisor Peter Lock says.

In past years groups led by the department (DOC) walked the 243ha reserve end to end two or three times in spring, pulling out the weed as they went. Also known as Senecio glastifolius, pink ragwort is an introduced plant that grows rampantly in coastal dunes, crowding out native vegetation.

Last year, when DOC asked for volunteers, only two people replied. Some former volunteers are ageing, and others may have moved their efforts to Bushy Park Sanctuary, which offers more variety, Mr Lock said.

"Everybody is so busy these days. It's just hard to get people there."


DOC is also down on staff, with one member seconded to Raoul Island and former community relations ranger Adele Meyer gone and not replaced. Also, logging operations in coastal forest made access to Whitiau more difficult.

Mr Lock was out at the reserve near the Whangaehu River mouth on Friday, and said there was less pink ragwort there than usual.

The department was not abandoning the place, he said. It had a helicopter there recently, to spray gorse and other weeds.

It was also putting a fair bit of work into Tapuarau, a coastal reserve near the mouth of the Waitotara River. Pink ragwort there had got too big to pull and was being sprayed.

Mr Lock said some kind of partnership could help with maintenance at Whitiau.

"We're working on a few options."