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Irrigation Reduces New Zealand’s Fire-Risk

Media Statement
9 January 2013 – for immediate release

Irrigation Reduces New Zealand’s Fire-Risk

IrrigationNZ says the fire risk from extreme temperatures being recorded on both sides of the Tasman has been eased in New Zealand by irrigation infrastructure.

The growth of on-farm storage ponds, particularly in Canterbury, has benefited rural fire-fighting crews in New Zealand by providing additional sources of fire-fighting water, says IrrigationNZ Chief Executive Andrew Curtis.
“These ponds hold thousands of litres of water and farmers and irrigation schemes are the first to make water available when a rural fire starts,” says Mr Curtis.

Irrigation schemes throughout the country have also initiated fire-fighting measures of their own. North Otago Irrigation Company, for example, introduced 20 fire hydrants into its irrigation scheme allowing fire-fighting trucks from the Waitaki Rural Fire Authority to refill within seconds.

Irrigation also lessens the risk of fire by maintaining green buffer zones in rural areas that previously were primarily dry land. Towns and cities surrounded by irrigation such as Christchurch, Gisborne, Napier, Martinborough, Ashburton, Invercargill and Blenheim have benefited.

“Green grass doesn’t burn. Irrigation produces vegetation that is less susceptible to fire and ignites more slowly. Irrigating farmers are closely monitoring their fields at this time of the year as they apply water so they’re often the ones who spot early fires.”

“Irrigation can’t remove fire risk completely but the growth of irrigation infrastructure and schemes throughout New Zealand has definitely made fire-fighting water more accessible,” says Mr Curtis.

Gisborne, Hawke's Bay, Wairarapa, Nelson, parts of Canterbury, Otago and central Southland had less than half their normal rainfall last month. These areas include the main irrigation centres of New Zealand.



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