Community unites to condemn Okarito fires
Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication.
IntroductionA reward put up to catch those responsible for last month’s spate of deliberately lit fires in Okarito Kiwi Zone has reached $8600.
Date: 05 March 2010
A reward put up to catch those responsible for last month’s spate of deliberately lit fires in Okarito Kiwi Zone - home of the critically endangered rowi kiwi - has reached $8600 and has almost entirely been pledged by local individuals and small businesses.
Helicopter with monsoon bucket
“Whether we get the culprits or not, we feel that this commitment from the local community shows our outrage and disgust that anyone would deliberately set fire, not only to a National Park but to an area containing our rarest kiwi species - it’s totally irresponsible!” says Okarito resident Richard Saunders.
With support from BNZ Save the Kiwi Trust, The Department of Conservation (DOC) is working with the community to save this last population of rowi.
DOC firefighter at the Okarito fires
“With such a small population, the loss of even one bird would be devastating,” says DOC Rowi Team Leader, Duncan Kay.
North-west of Franz Josef, forming part of Westland Tai Poutini National Park (celebrating its 50th anniversary this month), Okarito is an outstanding area for biodiversity and, as such, provides a vital contribution to the local economy.
The reward not only highlights the value locals place on this incredible part of New Zealand, it shows the generosity of its inhabitants, many of whom have suffered significantly from these fires.
“One volunteer firefighter spent half the night fighting the blaze, then had to cancel his guided tours the next day, at significant cost. All of us have paid through our taxes towards the cost of fighting the fire, which is estimated to be around $50,000.” Saunders points out.
The reward will be payable for any information that will lead to the conviction of the offender. Information can be passed to the Franz Josef Police on + 64 3 756 1070.
Alternatively, information can be passed anonymously on 0800 CRIMESTOPPERS (0800 555 111).