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1000ha Waituna blaze threatens 'significant' wetland

Author
Devon Bolger, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 5 Apr 2022, 2:29pm
A large fire is burning in an "extremely significant" wetland in Southland with Ngāi Tahu fearing some of the species that call it home may die. Photo / Dean Whaanga Te Rūnaka o Awarua Kaiwhakahaere
A large fire is burning in an "extremely significant" wetland in Southland with Ngāi Tahu fearing some of the species that call it home may die. Photo / Dean Whaanga Te Rūnaka o Awarua Kaiwhakahaere

1000ha Waituna blaze threatens 'significant' wetland

Author
Devon Bolger, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 5 Apr 2022, 2:29pm

A large fire is burning in an "extremely significant" wetland in Southland with Ngāi Tahu fearing some of the species that call it home may die. 

The 1000ha blaze has been burning in Waituna Wetland since Saturday. 

Nine helicopters and nine ground crews have been fighting the fire today, with heavy machinery used to create fire breaks. 

Waituna Wetland in Southland. Photo / Dean Whaanga Te Rūnaka o Awarua Kaiwhakahaere 

Ngāi Tahu Te Rūnaka o Awarua Kaiwhakahaere Dean Whaanga said the wetland was used by generations of their ancestors as a giant food basket and mahika kai site to feed people living at nearby settlements. 

"Because this area was so important to our rūnaka (council), there are many urupā (cemeteries) and wāhi tapu (sacred) sites near Waituna where our tīpuna (ancestors) are buried. 

"These are places holding the memories, traditions, victories, and defeats of Kāi Tahu tīpuna. Taoka artefacts have been found here in recent years, which tell the story of how our tīpuna used the landscape." 

He said they are very thankful for the help of all who are fighting the fire. 

An image of the fire burning in peat at Awarua, south of Invercargill, on Sunday. Photo / Supplied 

"We will have to wait until the fire is extinguished to fully understand what has been lost. It's incredibly sad some of the taoka species found here will have likely died in the fire, but we're comforted knowing the landscape will heal over time. 

"We will ensure we continue to pass down the kōrero of our tīpuna about this special place to future generations of our whānau." 

Many native species are found at the wetland, including ducks, white heron, spoonbill, kotuku, oyster-catcher, dotterels, terns and fernbirds. 

- Additional reporting RNZ 

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