Fire fears on Grampians

The Leader (Nelson) - - FRONT PAGE - CARLY GOOCH

Out-of-con­trol grass and weeds on the Grampians have trig­gered con­cern from lo­cals about the fire risk.

Un­til a year ago, the Grampians was be­ing leased for graz­ing to a lo­cal farmer but since he re­moved his sheep and cat­tle, the grass has reached a me­tre high.

Birdlife on Grampians co­or­di­na­tor Bryce Buck­land said if a fire broke out, it would ‘‘do se­ri­ous dam­age to the re­growth we’ve had there over the last 10 years.

‘‘It has caught on fire be­fore and there’s no doubt in my mind that it will hap­pen again.

‘‘The an­i­mals must keep a lot of weeds down as there’s ev­ery weed ex­cept sea­weed on the Grampians. The sheep and cows did a very good job of try­ing to keep that un­der con­trol.’’

The hills be­hind Nel­son are pop­u­lar walk­ing ar­eas , par­tic­u­larly with dog own­ers.

Buck­land said the last farmer who leased the land told him he had prob­lems with dogs wor­ry­ing his stock. ’’I hear he said he won’t be go­ing back.’’

He said while most dog own­ers were re­spon­si­ble, oth­ers ran amok. ‘‘When I was up there I’d catch dogs chas­ing sheep and then you’d of­ten see wool that had been torn out of sheep ... where peo­ple just let their dogs run around up there.’’

Buck­land said there was also a prob­lem with col­lect­ing and de­liv­er­ing stock as there were no proper yards.

Lind­say Wood lives at the bot­tom of the Grampians and is in a team that col­lect the rat traps in the area.

He said since the graz­ing had stopped, the grass had got ‘‘dra­mat­i­cally longer’’.

It should be com­pul­sory to have dogs on a leash in the Grampians with a tough penalty for those not com­ply­ing, Wood said.

‘‘Dogs reg­u­larly have has­sled sheep up there, a num­ber of times I have in­ter­vened sep­a­rat­ing a dog from sheep.’’ He had also found dead sheep.

Dog con­trol in the area would be dif­fi­cult, Wood said, but he be­lieved sig­nage for own­ers to keep their pets re­strained would be a good start.

Nel­son City Coun­cil com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager Paul Shat­tock said it had ad­ver­tised twice for ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est for graz­ing the land but so far, ‘‘no re­place­ment has been found’’.

Shat­tock con­sid­ered graz­ing was an ef­fec­tive means of weed con­trol, es­pe­cially in ar­eas of steep ter­rain.

‘‘Some level of weed con­trol is re­quired to en­sure the tracks re­main us­able and also to re­duce the fire risk dur­ing dry, sum­mer months.’’

Shat­tock said the Grampians were con­sid­ered ‘‘a dif­fi­cult area to graze and man­age stock due to the na­ture of the ter­rain and the ac­ces­si­bil­ity to load stock in and out’’.

He said Nel­mac had a weed con­trol pro­gramme in place.

The coun­cil is still keen to dis­cuss op­tions for graz­ing on 546 0200.

PHOTO: MAR­ION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ

Birdlife on Grampians co-or­di­na­tor Bryce Buck­land says an­other fire could eas­ily break out in the area.

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