Otago Conservation Board members have expressed shock at the extent of damage caused two months ago by fire in the Matatiaho Conservation Area by Lake Hawea. Photos of the damage were shown to the Board during its recent meeting at Hawea.
The fire was apparently lit on neighbouring Glen Dene Station to clear bracken, but it spread rapidly into the Conservation Area in the Craig Burn catchment. About thirty hectares of regenerating native vegetation was destroyed before the fire was brought under control. It took five helicopters and fire crew from Hawea, Luggate and Wanaka, as well as local Department of Conservation (DOC) offices, to put out the blaze.
Paul Hellebrekers, DOC Wanaka Area Manager, told the Board that an investigation was underway, and that the total cost of fighting the fire was not yet known.
Photos of the damage were sent to the Board by a local resident who described the scene as being "like Armageddon". The affected area had been healthy regenerating beech forest that formed an important corridor of native habitat between the mountain tops and Lake Hawea. It was a popular hunting and tramping area for Wanaka residents.
Board members voiced their dismay and drew attention to a recent DOC media release urging farmers to take extra care when lighting fires near conservation land.