Otago Daily Times

The dev­as­ta­tion of Ohau

- LOUISE SCOTT louise.scott@odt.co.nz Disasters · Waitaki District Council

SOBER­ING and emo­tional — those were words de­scrib­ing the sit­u­a­tion of Lake Ohau Vil­lage res­i­dents re­turn­ing to fire­rav­aged homes to sift through the re­mains.

One re­ported their dog had found all his toys in­tact; an­other said some tools had sur­vived in a work­shop.

Oth­ers were not so lucky and the charred re­mains of a stove, bunk bed frame, heat pump, sofa, glass mirrors, satel­lite dish, chim­ney, wa­ter tanks, trail­ers and cars were vis­i­ble dur­ing an es­corted me­dia visit yes­ter­day.

The smell of burn­ing hung in the air while a few res­i­dents picked through be­long­ings.

None wanted to speak di­rectly to the me­dia.

Through­out the vil­lage there were burnt tree stumps, roof­ing metal and cor­ru­gated iron, twisted and blow­ing in the wind. And in be­tween — houses un­touched by the flames.

Res­i­dents have been al­lowed back into the vil­lage on a ros­tered ba­sis fol­low­ing the fire nine days ago, which de­stroyed 48 build­ings and burnt through 5000ha of the Macken­zie Basin.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said it was a sober­ing and emo­tional time.

While some had been to the vil­lage to see the de­struc­tion, they had not been al­lowed into their homes.

‘‘It is a whole other step to go into a dev­as­tated prop­erty and start fos­sick­ing around to see what lit­tle me­men­tos they have been able to find in the re­mains of their houses.

‘‘These have been very in­tense fires. In most houses there is no sign of any tim­ber at all — it has just been in­cin­er­ated. So it is re­ally only ceram­ics and so on that will sur­vive and for some peo­ple that will be their only me­mento.’’

Mr Kircher said coun­cil­lors and com­mu­nity board mem­bers vis­ited the vil­lage yes­ter­day for the first time since the fires.

Fol­low­ing the blaze, Civil De­fence Min­is­ter Peeni

Henare an­nounced the Gov­ern­ment had pro­vided $100,000 to a may­oral re­lief fund.

Mr Kircher said that more money was needed and con­firmed that he had ap­proached the Gov­ern­ment for ad­di­tional fund­ing.

It was a unique sit­u­a­tion op­er­a­tionally, in­volv­ing 24/7 se­cu­rity and mul­ti­ple health and safety risks.

Con­trac­tors were due to ar­rive to­day to as­sess waste­water and the power sup­ply.

The fo­cus was now on the re­build, Mr Kircher said.

Fire and Emer­gency New Zealand in­ci­dent con­troller Graeme Still said it would be ‘‘months’’, not days, be­fore the cause of the fire was known.

Waitaki District Coun­cil re­cov­ery man­ager Lichelle Guyan said she would be work­ing with Fenz fol­low­ing a ‘‘re­view’’ to see what rec­om­men­da­tions could be made in the fu­ture for other small com­mu­ni­ties.

Her role fo­cused on health and safety and get­ting res­i­dents back into the vil­lage as soon as pos­si­ble.

‘‘It is an in­cred­i­bly re­silient com­mu­nity and many will want to get in and re­build as quickly as pos­si­ble.’’

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 ?? PHO­TOS: PETER MCIN­TOSH/MON­TAGE: ALIS­TAIR CRAIG ?? The dam­age done . . . The scope of dam­age caused by the fire at Lake Ohau Vil­lage over a week ago is be­ing re­alised by res­i­dents as they re­turn to their homes. Above: Waitaki District Coun­cil re­cov­ery man­ager Lichelle Guyan; be­low: Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher.
PHO­TOS: PETER MCIN­TOSH/MON­TAGE: ALIS­TAIR CRAIG The dam­age done . . . The scope of dam­age caused by the fire at Lake Ohau Vil­lage over a week ago is be­ing re­alised by res­i­dents as they re­turn to their homes. Above: Waitaki District Coun­cil re­cov­ery man­ager Lichelle Guyan; be­low: Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher.
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