11 December update: Radio NZ is reporting that a forest fire that started yesterday afternoon near the Wairau Valley township has destroyed 750 hectares of pine trees. 14 aircraft and 60 firefighters started working on putting out the blaze at 6am today and say it will take “many days” to bring it under control. Helicopters from all around New Zealand have been called in to Marlborough to deal with the blaze, while fears grow it could spread to grazing land and the Waihopai Valley. A lack of water sources means tankers and heavy machinery are being used to bring in water.
The fire started on a commercial plantation belonging to Nelson Forests south of the Wairau Valley township and around 60 hectares has already burned.
The Marlborough District Council says six helicopters and forestry fire crews from around the region have been called in to help. Four helicopters are on standby.
Incident controller John Foley says it could take at least four days to get under control.
The blaze follows an ‘apocalyptic’ fire in the Waikakaho Valley that destroyed over 400 hectares at the end of November. On the 29 Nov 2015, after 5 days, the 450 hectare forest fire was still blazing. Fire crews were exhausted and the blaze had 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…