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Extra care needed on "tinder dry" public land

26 February 2001 Media Statement

Extra care needed on "tinder dry" public conservation land

The Minister of Conservation, Hon Sandra Lee, today appealed to people to take extra care on "tinder dry" public conservation land which she says is now "at extreme risk from fire".

Ms Lee said the Department of Conservation had committed additional staff and resources to firefighting, and had postponed some conservation work due to the current level of risk.

“The number of stand-by crews to deal with fires outside of working hours has increased, and some lower priority conservation operations in more isolated areas have been temporarily abandoned to ensure fire fighters will be quickly available in the event of a blaze," Ms Lee said.

“The lack of rain and high temperatures have placed vast areas of public land administered by the Department of Conservation in extreme fire danger. Some public tracks, for example sections of the Queen Charlotte Track at the top of the South Island, have been closed while others are near to being closed," she said.

"Fire bans have been declared in the Wellington, Nelson-Marlborough and Canterbury areas and also throughout most of Otago," Ms Lee said. "No open fires are permitted in these regions without a special permit, and people caught lighting fires face prosecution and being billed for firefighting costs."

“The Department’s fire crews and volunteer fire forces have been used extensively since Christmas to battle fires on public land and to help other fire authorities," Ms Lee said. “I am proud of DOC's professional and volunteer firefighters who have worked tirelessly to battle outbreaks since the current drought began. Unfortunately most of the fires on public land administered by DOC are caused by humans, though largely unintentionally."

Ms Lee urged people to be extremely cautious in dry areas, whether or not total fire bans had been imposed.


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