Nelson bush fire: What you need to know

2019-02-12 14:34:33

The state of emergency in the Nelson Tasman area has been extended for another week.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the extension would allow authorities to continue to control the fire.

Although fire crews have made some good progress, the wildfire was "not contained by any stretch of the imagination", Fire and Emergency New Zealand said.

Wakefield residents have been allowed back into their homes but are on evacuation notice. About 500 valley residents are still evacuated from their homes, however have been given restricted access to properties during the say.

Wednesday (February 13) will be day nine of the fire. The blaze is still considered "unpredictable" and covers 2300 hectares, with a 25 kilometre perimeter.

Over the past nine days, more than 1000 homes were evacuated in the Nelson region, affecting 2600 people.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand fire controller Trevor Mitchell said "it's going to take weeks, possibly months to get it under control. It's a marathon, not a sprint."

Civil Defence has implemented a total fire ban in the Nelson-Tasman region. A machinery ban - where metal could meet stone and cause a spark - is also in place in the area.

Although Wakefield residents were allowed back into their homes on Monday, they needed to be prepared to re-evacuate if asked to, police said.

"I must emphasise that returning residents must be prepared to evacuate if conditions change. The signals to evacuate will be an emergency mobile alert message sent to cellphones, AND the continuous sounding of the Wakefield fire siren," Civil Defence Incident Controller Roger Ball said.

Ball said firefighters will continue to be in the field for weeks, if not months, and there was still an extreme fire risk for the whole region.

Other Valley residents are still evacuated due to the risk and danger from fire-affected trees. But agencies are still actively planning for Valley residents to be able to return home in future.

The Wakefield Police Station remains open and will be staffed 24 hours a day through to Friday 15 February at 4pm.

After this the station will return to standard operating hours.

Police officers along with staff from New Zealand Defence and New Zealand Red Cross will be visiting all homes in Wakefield later on Tuesday evening.

The purpose of the visits are to offer reassurance, provide a fact-sheet with advice and remind residents of the process for re-evacuation should it be necessary.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand is using drones at night to map hotspots around the edge of the blaze. The heatmaps generated help guide supervised temporary returns of residents in the evacuated areas to tend to livestock.

So far, $70,000 of emergency funding has been approved by the Government, going to the mayoral relief fund. About $50,000 has been approved for farming and horticultural businesses.

The money going towards the Rural Support Trusts and primary industry groups would "help speed up the recovery of farming and horticultural businesses", said Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor.

Civil Defence will provide another update at 8:30am media session on Wednesday morning.

Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne has confirmed that still only one home has been lost. The aim is to get people back in their homes as soon as it is safe to do so.


Re-entry into Wakefield for residents was conditional and residents remain on evacuation notice.

This is a precautionary measure to allow residents time to plan for an orderly departure, should it become necessary because of the progress of the fire.

SH6 was now open, however only residents were able to stop in Wakefield until 7am Tuesday.

Residents in Eves Valley, Teapot Valley, Redwood Valley, Pigeon Valley and Golden Hill have been able to return home on a short-term access. Civil Defence hopes that this arrangement can continue each day until longer access can be approved.

Agencies involved in the fire response were still actively planning for Valley residents to be able to return home in future.

The evacuations in Wakefield affected approximately 1200 residents, Nelson Tasman Civil Defence said. One home has been lost.

The process for re-evacuation of Wakefield, if this is required, is as follows:

- A national media release will be issued and the Civil Defence website will be updated.

- An EMS text message will be sent out to the affected area.

- The Wakefield fire station siren will sound continuously.

- Police vehicles will move into the area and their sirens will sound continuously.

- Police, NZDF and USAR staff will move into the area and commence going door to door to confirm residents have evacuated.

On hearing the evacuate signals, we would ask residents to leave the area in an orderly and timely manner.

Any decision to evacuate will allow residents sufficient time to gather their pets, pre-packed personal items, and leave the area.

People who evacuate their homes are asked to report to the Civil Defence Centre. The Civil Defence Centre in Wakefield has been moved to Saxton Field Stadium. Evacuees can also report to Civil Defence by calling 03 543 8400. More than 860 people have already registered with the Civil Defence Centre.

People who have self-evacuated should call 03 543 8400 to check in.

Police had been in the area knocking on doors and assisting residents during evacuations. People were asked to please take water, food, medicines, pets and valuables.

Airbnb has activated open homes in the Tasman region for evacuated neighbours and relief workers deployed to help. Currently more than 100 hosts have opened their homes from February 6 to March 4. You can sign up your home or find a house on the property platform.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church Hall in Richmond is prepped and ready to host evacuees if needed, Parish Priest Father Seth Pijfers told Stuff. They are liaising with Civil Defence via St. Vincent De Paul, and have mattresses and a kitchen available to accommodate up to 30 people.


Farmers, contractors and anyone using certain types of outdoor machinery in part of the Nelson Tasman region will need to defer their activities because of the extreme fire danger in Nelson and the Waimea and Motueka valleys.

Civil Defence Controller Rob Smith says that one spark could be enough to cause a fire in these conditions.

He has issued a directive under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act that the following high-risk activities are prohibited in a defined area for the duration of the State of Emergency.

Prohibited activities include those where metal meets stone: mowing, discing, harrowing, stump grinding and cultivation.

Outdoor activities that can generate sparks or fire are also prohibited, and include gas cutting, welding, angle grinding, and all use of chainsaws and scrub/bar cutters.

Commercial forest harvesting activities are also to cease, however provision can be made for the loading and mobilising of harvested material from landings.

Smith said he was mindful that this would cause some inconvenience, but it was an essential precaution to help prevent more fires during the current period of extreme fire danger.


State Highway 6 re-opened on Monday, with restrictions in place through Wakefield.

Cordons remain in place at Pigeon Valley, Teapot Valley, Eves Valley, Golden Hills, Redwood Hills and Barton Lane West.

Access will only be allowed for emergency vehicles.


Wednesday will bring more fine weather with a high of 26 degrees Celsius, according to MetService. Moderate winds are expected, reaching up to 25kmh.


Residents are warned smoke may cause symptoms such as irritated eyes, nose, throat and airways, however, they should go away once you've moved away from the smoke. If symptoms worsen, call your GP or Healthline on 0800 611 116. If you experience breathlessness or any chest pains, call 111.

Civil Defence is reminding people that it's normal to feel anxious during an event like this and talking to others about what you're experiencing can be very helpful.


Livestock needing to be evacuated due to the Pigeon Valley Fire can be accommodated at the Richmond Showgrounds.

At one of the community meetings a spokesperson from the Ministry for Primary Industries said around 300 to 350 animals were currently being cared for at Richmond's A&P showgrounds and that there hasn't been a "mass loss of life" for animals at evacuated properties.

Vet and animal rescue teams have been making their way to properties in the Redwood Valley are to check on animals.

Horses, sheep and goats can be accommodated in empty stables – use the Campground Gate to the Showgrounds and follow the road to the stable blocks. Leave your name and contact number on the stable door and provide food for your animals. There is water available on-site.

For sheep and cattle – you should call the contact centre on 03 543 8400. They can help make arrangements for you to get access to the racecourse oval to accommodate them.

If people need help finding temporary shelter for animals they can contact SPCA's Nelson centre on 03 547 7171.

Anyone worried about animals in the fire affected area should phone MPI on 0800 008 333 (option 4).


Travellers are asked to check to the Nelson Airport website to for their flight status or contact the airline directly.


Donations can be made to the Mayoral Relief Fund using the following information.

Tasman District Council, ASB Bank Ltd, Nelson Commercial Banking

Bank/branch account number: 12-3193-0002048-03

Include "relief fund" along with your name and contact number in the reference field.


Nelson Tasman Civil Defence has been inundated with offers of assistance. An online form has been set up for people to register their assistance. They've advised they will be in touch with those registered if they are needed.


Fire, police or ambulance: 111

Nelson Tasman Civil Defence: 03 543 7290

Tasman District Council: 03 543 8400

Nelson District Council: 03 546 0200

Rural Support Trust: 0800 787 254

Healthline: 0800 611 116

Back to the top ^

Related Articles (30)