“Apocalyptic” Forest Fire Rages in Marlborough, Tourists Advised to Stay Away – updated

Marlborough fire

Wild fire rips through Marlborough plantation

Tourists are advised to stay away from large tracts of Marlborough forest as huge forest wildfire rages out of control.

Update 29 Nov 2015: After 5 days the 450 hectare forest fire is still blazing and has yet to be brought under control. Fire crews are exhausted and the blaze has taken up over 500 person hours. A total fire ban has been imposed over Marlborough which is tinder box dry. Conditions are set to become more arid over the summer with the approaching extreme El Nino event.However, talk of drought is being played-down so as not to affect the tourist trade or alarm residents.

Drought is the most persistent natural hazard to affect Marlborough. in February this year a major fire tore through Onamalutu Forest (picture below) causing several homes to be evacuated.

Onamalutu Forest fire

Power lines are shut down and residents evacuated in NZ’s forest fires

In 2000  Marlborough recorded the highest ever national fire index level. The extreme drought conditions at the time culminated in the Boxing Day fires near Ward and on the Wither Hills near Blenheim. Some 600 hectares of farmland were burnt in the Ward fire. The Wither Hills fire was much more extensive, burning some 6100 hectares and, at the time, was the largest grass fire recorded in New Zealand for the preceding 17 years. source

Marlborough apocalypse

“Apocalyptic” fire rages in Marlborough

In the last few minutes up to 10 fire fighting helicopters have been grounded by high winds, which are also fanning the flames.

Much of Marlborough is tinder-box dry at the moment and there are concerns there are no sufficient resources to deal with the fire. Yesterday Renwick residents were asked to reduce their water use immediately


The fire is currently burning through hundreds of hectares of the Waikakaho Valley where a forestry plantation has been destroyed. Residents in the area have been urged to evacuate their homes.

Marlborough fire2

Winds are expected to reach 130 km/hr in Marlborough

Air Space “Maxed Out” Yesterday

Fire crews contained the fire to about 400 hectares overnight, while yesterday it was feared the fire could spread to 600ha.

More than 100 firefighters and helicopter crew were involved in a “holding operation” to contain the fire in the Waikakaho Valley on Thursday.

Nine helicopters, with monsoon buckets, were fighting the fire – the maximum number that is safe for the airspace they were working in, Marlborough Kaikoura Rural Fire Authority principal fire officer Richard McNamara said on Thursday. source

For updates about the fire follow @MarlDistCouncil or the hashtag


One thought on ““Apocalyptic” Forest Fire Rages in Marlborough, Tourists Advised to Stay Away – updated

  1. After 5 days the fire still rages, fire crews are exhausted.

    Fire update from Marlborough District Council 4.50 pm 28 November

    About three dozen people from the Waikakaho-Kaituna area turned out to a public meeting at Tua Marina this afternoon to get an update on the forest fire that has been burning since Wednesday.

    They heard a strong message from Marlborough Principal Rural Fire Officer Richard McNamara about the acute fire risk facing the region.

    “We are living in a fire-prone environment and I don’t want to burn our volunteers’ time dealing with fires caused by campfires or chainsaws or mowers being used in the heat of the day. Everyone should be aware of the risk and no one should be taking any chances,” he said.

    Firefighters in the Waikakaho Valley have done a great job today and the total spread of the fire has been confined to 450 hectares, said Mr McNamara.

    But the fire had taken up large resources – 500 man hours and 200 flying hours by today.

    This is the second major fire in the region in 2015, given the Onamalutu fire in February, and it takes a heavy toll on our volunteers. We don’t want to face more of this over the coming summer so it is vital that residents and visitors all understand the fire danger.”

    The Tua Marina Track was reopened this afternoon although the Waikakaho Valley Road itself is open to residents only.

    Key Messages
    • A total fire ban remains in place across Marlborough and all fire permits have been suspended.

    • Access to Waikakaho Road is restricted to residents only.


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