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MIL OSI – Source: Department of Conservation – Release/Statement

Headline: Cost of 2017 Port Hills fires

The Department of Conservation’s costs in helping fight the Port Hills fires earlier this year have added up to more than $4.5 million, say’s DOC’s Eastern South Island Operations Director, Andy Roberts of Christchurch.

“DOC contributed more than $3.5 million by way of operational costs and a further $1 million in staff and other internal costs. The Department supplied more than 130 fully trained rural fire fighters, including fire behavior experts, air attack managers and sector leaders during the fires which started in February and burned for two months. 

“If we add in time spent on aerial mapping, incident planning and other background support roles, that would come to more than 11,000 hours of staff time, some of whom were on duty for up to 15 hours a day. This all amounts to about 50% of the total costs incurred on the Port Hills fires, which destroyed some 1660 hectares,” Andy Roberts said.

Although there was no public conservation land burnt in the Port Hills fire, DOC has a responsibility to respond to fires within a one-kilometre margin of protected areas. DOC had also contributed to major fires at Broken River, Hawke’s Bay, Hanmer and Queenstown during last summer’s fire season.

Andy Roberts said DOC’s commitment to rural fire fighting, typified in the Port Hills response, will remain unchanged with the introduction of Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) on 1 July 2017. More than 460 staff are fully trained to fight fires on or near conservation land.

“Our key partners and stakeholders can be confident that as the primary land manager in New Zealand, DOC will always have an interest in rural fire and the threat it poses to the natural and heritage values that DOC is charged with protecting.”

“The recent pattern of fires and their increasing occurrence in the East and North of both Islands indicates a need for increased vigilance because of climate change effects and the department will play a significant role in that.

“Our total expenditure on fire-fighting last year was $8.7 million, so we remind all rural landowners that prevention is better than the very expensive cure.”

DOC and FENZ will have a three-yearly Operational Service Agreement setting out the services each will deliver to the other when the new structure comes into force next month.