Nelson Mail

Book honours an­i­mal car­ers

- Carly Gooch carly.gooch@stuff.co.nz

The work of an an­i­mal or­gan­i­sa­tion dur­ing last sum­mer’s Nel­son wild­fires has been cap­tured in a chil­dren’s pic­ture book.

The 32-page story But Who’s Look­ing Af­ter the An­i­mals? tack­les the fires in a way young chil­dren can un­der­stand, and fo­cuses on pets and farm an­i­mals be­ing taken to a safe haven as the Pi­geon Val­ley wild­fire burned out of con­trol.

Nel­son au­thor Re­nee Lang col­lab­o­rated with lo­cal il­lus­tra­tor Polly Rab­bits to cre­ate the book while also fundrais­ing for an­i­mal or­gan­i­sa­tions HUHA NZ and The Nel­son Ark.

HUHA, a char­i­ta­ble trust based in Otaki that finds shel­ter for aban­doned and abused an­i­mals, set up the an­i­mal haven at the Rich­mond Show­grounds dur­ing the fires.

Lang said what the or­gan­i­sa­tion did ‘‘lent it­self re­ally well to a chil­dren’s book that kids could iden­tify with’’.

‘‘There were so many com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tions that stood out and did marvel­lous things.’’

Pupils at Wake­field School re­cently got a peek at the book be­fore its launch.

‘‘They were ab­so­lutely de­lighted,’’ Lang said. ‘‘It gave them a chance to think about how they felt at the time [of the fires]. Those kids were right in the thick of it.’’

Wake­field was evac­u­ated dur­ing the fires, forc­ing 3000 peo­ple to seek refuge with friends and fam­ily out­side the area.

Lang said she felt ‘‘help­less’’ dur­ing the Fe­bru­ary fires, so she launched into ac­tion, fundrais­ing to feed the hun­dreds of an­i­mals be­ing shel­tered at the show­grounds.

‘‘That in­volved de­liv­er­ing food and seeing first-hand what was go­ing on out there, and it just stayed in my mind.’’

Two months af­ter a Civil De­fence state of emer­gency was lifted, Lang and Rab­bits set to work on the cre­at­ing the book.

Sheep, pigs, chick­ens, ducks, lla­mas, cows, guinea pigs, dogs and cats were evac­u­ated dur­ing the fire, and all are rep­re­sented in the book.

HUHA co-founder Carolyn Press-McKen­zie said the book was ‘‘very spe­cial’’.

‘‘If we’ve in­spired it in any way, I feel very very proud.’’

She said 957 an­i­mals passed through the tem­po­rary fa­cil­ity at the show­grounds over three weeks. An­i­mals were left and en­trusted to the fa­cil­ity while fam­i­lies, farm­ers and in­di­vid­u­als were forced to leave their homes.

‘‘We knew ev­ery an­i­mal, where it needed to be and where its par­ents were.’’

She said the site wasn’t just for the an­i­mals – it was a respite for fam­i­lies as well.

Help­ing out was a very ‘‘val­i­dat­ing mo­ment’’, PressMcKen­zie said. ‘‘It was like my life’s work was put into one mo­ment.’’ The fires were an aw­ful event, ‘‘but it was a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence’’.

But Who’s Look­ing Af­ter the An­i­mals? is avail­able from Paper Plus Nel­son, Page & Black­more Book­sellers and book stores na­tion­ally.

 ?? BRADEN FASTIER/STUFF ?? Au­thor Re­nee Lang, right, and il­lus­tra­tor Polly Rab­bits say the work of an an­i­mal wel­fare group dur­ing the Pi­geon Val­ley wild­fire lent it­self to a chil­dren’s book.
BRADEN FASTIER/STUFF Au­thor Re­nee Lang, right, and il­lus­tra­tor Polly Rab­bits say the work of an an­i­mal wel­fare group dur­ing the Pi­geon Val­ley wild­fire lent it­self to a chil­dren’s book.
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