Baa DOC from high country management – sheep do a better job
5 October, 2020
The fire risk on Department of Conservation-managed land is being mismanaged and neglected, and needs urgent review, Federated Farmers says.
More than 1600 hectares have been destroyed by the fire at Lake Ohau that also ripped through the small alpine village on Sunday morning. Five weeks ago, around 3000 hectares of trees and scrub were turned to ash.
“It's not even fire season and we have lost almost 50 homes and over 5000 ha because of fire,” Federated Farmers High Country Chair Rob Stokes says.
“In August we had the Pukaki Downs fires, also burning through DOC land, and now just weeks later another fire, again burning through DOC land. Both these fires were entirely avoidable.
“Lake Ohau residents who have tragically lost their homes must today have serious questions around what fuelled the fire.”
Federated Farmers has held grave fears for many years that locking up high country land without the proper care is dangerous.
In future Feds believes the risk will become even greater as the government’s new freshwater policies and the livestock destocking that will come through unreasonable fencing requirements will kick in. These policies will result in the growth of more combustible vegetation.
"This fire is another red flag; how many do we need?” Rob asks.
The 2012 Report of the Independent Fire Review said vegetation fires were arguably New Zealand's most significant fire risk.
Destocking hill and high-country farms for conservation purposes has not been thoroughly thought through, Rob says.
“There is simply no science to support destocking. Now people have lost their homes because of mismanagement by DOC.”
Passive grazing of these areas in the past has significantly reduced the fire risk by controlling wilding pines and grasses, which left ungrazed become fuel. It also enabled the landowners and leaseholders to manage other pests while preserving open landscapes.