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Fire Risk Temporarily Restricts Vehicle Access To Some South Island Conservation Areas

Areas of public conservation land in the Hakatere, St James, and Molesworth, in the eastern South Island will temporarily close to motorised vehicles due to high fire risk.

The restrictions aim to reduce the risk of vehicles including 4WDs accidentally causing fires, such as through a hot exhaust encountering dry grass, as prolonged hot and windy weather has led to extreme fire risk in some places.

In the St James Conservation Area, near Hanmer Springs, the Edwards and Malings passes are closed to vehicles from Friday 26 January.

In the Molesworth Recreation Reserve and the Acheron Rd, which runs between Hanmer Springs and Blenheim, will be closed to vehicles from 7pm Sunday 28 January.

In the Hakatere Conservation Area, inland from Ashburton, the Harrison’s Bight, Lake Emily, Lake Emma, Lake Clearwater, and Paddle Hill Stream 4WD accesses will be closed to all motorised vehicles from Friday 2February.

DOC Eastern South Island Statutory Manager Kingsley Timpson says there is currently no end date for the temporary no-vehicle access rules, but they will be reviewed regularly, and especially after rain. The relevant DOC webpages will be updated when this changes.

“As well as being a risk to visitors, wildfires can be devastating for our native wildlife and cause damage to huts, tracks, ecosystems and heritage sites.

“At the sites where we are restricting access, a fire could start very easily in the tinder-dry vegetation and would be very difficult to put out given the conditions and location.

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“It is possible vehicle access may be temporarily restricted at other sites as well if the hot weather continues and the fire risk increases. If this is the case, public notices will be issued in local papers and alerts will be placed on the relevant DOC webpages.”

Kingsley Timpson says other users such as walkers and cyclists (where allowed) can still access these areas but are asked to follow any fire restrictions in place and take extra care.

“For anyone planning to head out, it’s always a good idea to visit the Check Its Alright website to see any fire restrictions and rules in place. People should also check the relevant DOC webpage to see if there are any alerts or other information they need to know.”

In particular, anyone using an approved gas camp cooker, or a pressurised liquid cooker in the backcountry is asked to be extremely careful;

  • Be mindful of wind, find a sheltered area to cook.
  • Your stove must be on a non-combustible area/base.
  • Use a picnic table or bench in a hut, find a level surface or use a stabiliser
  • Set up at least 1.5 away from vegetation including branches above
  • Be careful not to tip your cooker over with a heavy pot or pan.
  • Have a suitable way to extinguish the fire within easy reach (a maximum of 5m away).
  • Never leave cookers unattended.

Fire and Emergency has a prohibited fire season in place for many parts of the South Island, which means no open-air fires are allowed in those places.

Anyone who sees a fire should contact emergency services on 111.

For more information about fires on public conservation land: Lighting fires on public conservation land (

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