Bay of Plenty Times

DOC land a fire haz­ard to farms, Fed­er­ated Farm­ers says

RU­RAL IS­SUES: Fire and Emer­gency NZ ap­pears not to have con­sid­ered on­go­ing calls to iden­tify risks, writes Eric Fryk­berg

- Fires · Oceania News · Disasters · New Zealand · Canterbury · Otago · South Island · Eugenie Sage · New Zealand Department of Conservation · West Coast · University of Canterbury

The peo­ple who run New Zealand’s main fire­fight­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion do not ap­pear to have looked into the dan­gers of fire on Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion ( DOC) land spread­ing to neigh­bour­ing prop­er­ties.

That is sug­gested by Fire and Emer­gency New Zealand’s re­sponse to a re­quest un­der the Of­fi­cial In­for­ma­tion Act by RNZ.

Farm­ers re­peat­edly com­plained that thick un­der­growth on DOC land put their own neigh­bour­ing prop­er­ties at risk af­ter a dev­as­tat­ing blaze at Olake¯ hau in early Oc­to­ber de­stroyed 48 build­ings and burnt more than 5000 hectares of land.

There were fears that sim­i­lar fires could hap­pen else­where in Can­ter­bury and Otago, fo­cused on dry coun­try in the east­ern South Is­land, not the hu­mid rain forests of the West Coast.

Crit­i­cism was spurred by Fed­er­ated Farm­ers, and sup­ported by a re­tired ru­ral fire chief with 24 years in the job, Mur­ray Dud­field.

Dud­field ar­gued DOC land next to pri­vate prop­er­ties had be­come a fire risk, with 2m high veg­e­ta­tion avail­able to pro­vide fuel in the event of a blaze.

“It’s not a case of if, it’s a case of when, those lands burn,” Dud­field said.

Their wor­ries were re­jected by con­ser­va­tion­ists, and by then Min­is­ter of Con­ser­va­tion Eu­ge­nie Sage.

They ar­gued let­ting ecosys­tems grow back to their nat­u­ral state was an im­por­tant en­vi­ron­men­tal goal.

Univer­sity of Can­ter­bury plant ecol­o­gist David Kelly said stop­ping graz­ing was an es­sen­tial part of longterm man­age­ment of pub­lic lands, which could end up cov­ered with ei­ther na­tive shrubs or na­tive for­est, which were much less flammable.

Fire and Emer­gency New Zealand was then asked for its view on this de­bate in a re­quest un­der the Of­fi­cial In­for­ma­tion Act.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion was asked by RNZ for any brief­ing pa­pers writ­ten on this prob­lem for ei­ther the chief ex­ec­u­tive or the board of di­rec­tors.

In a re­sponse, Fire and Emer­gency said no pa­pers of that kind had been pro­vided to ei­ther en­tity in the last two years.

“As such, it is nec­es­sary to de­cline your re­quest un­der sec­tion 18(e) of the Of­fi­cial In­for­ma­tion Act,” Fire and Emer­gency said.

“That is be­cause the doc­u­ment al­leged to con­tain the in­for­ma­tion re­quested does not ex­ist or, de­spite rea­son­able ef­forts to lo­cate it, can­not be found.”

Fire and Emer­gency went on to say that risk of fire from veg­e­ta­tion on land was dealt with at a lo­cal level in the first in­stance, but it gave no fur­ther in­for­ma­tion on what would hap­pen next. — RNZ

 ?? Photo / Otago Daily Times ?? The fire at Lake
hau in early Oc­to­ber de­stroyed 48 build­ings and burnt more than 5000 hectares of land.
Photo / Otago Daily Times The fire at Lake hau in early Oc­to­ber de­stroyed 48 build­ings and burnt more than 5000 hectares of land.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand