Nelson fire: Wakefield residents can return to homes

Section
National,
Publish Date
Monday, 11 February 2019, 4:07p.m.

Wakefield residents can return to their homes immediately, Civil Defence has announced.

Residents found out at a Civil Defence press conference held at 4pm today.

Civil Defence controller Roger Ball said he was very pleased to make the announcement. It comes after a risk assessment.

Rural firefighter Dave Houston manning a pump on the fringes of the Tasman bush fires at Teapot Valley near Nelson. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Police said they have been able to get staff into position earlier than expected and residents can go home immediately.

Ball stressed it was only for residents.

Returning residents must be able to demonstrate that they live there if asked by police.

Non-residents cannot go into the town until 7am tomorrow.

In a separate press conference, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called the return of residents to their homes was a "significant milestone in the response to the fire".

Civil Defence Minister Kris Faafoi, who accompanied Ardern at her post-Cabinet press conference, said an additional $50,000 will be provided to the Mayoral Relief Fund to plug any gaps in funding.

He also said the Government has set up a number - 0800 77997, available from 5pm today - that anyone can ring with any queries regarding the fire and the response to it.

Ardern and Faafoi thanked all those who had worked hard to battle the fire.

The Government has already put $20,000 into the Mayoral Relief Fund, announced last week.

Faafoi said about 400 people who were evacuated earlier last week - not from Wakefield - were still yet to be cleared to return home.

Earlier, Zane Hooper, the acting police district commander, said police and the Defence Force were working to make a plan for residents to return to Wakefield, if it was still safe.

He said residents would need to be prepared to evacuate again if conditions changed.

Medically high-risk residents would not be able to return to Wakefield.

Hooper said it was a balancing act allowing 680 households to return.

Satellite image taken 7 February showing smoke over the Tasman region. Photo / via Nasa

Satellite image taken 7 February showing smoke over the Tasman region. Photo / via Nasa

Meanwhile Tasman mayor Richard Kempthorne has thanked iwi for opening their marae to help.

"It's really encouraging to know that we're very close to Wakefield residents being able to return home."

The announcement comes after concerns were raised today that the fire could keep burning for another month. 

A total ban remained in place prohibiting the use of machinery.

Fire and Emergency's John Sutton said the weather was co-operating and dew on the ground and higher humidity was restricting fuel for the fires. However, the fire was still not under control.

Last night was "probably one of the quietest nights" for firefighters, he said.

"I've got the feeling that we're starting to turn the corner."

However, Sutton said he expected firefighters would still be battling the blaze in March.

Helicopters using monsoon buckets dropping water on a flare-up in the Tasman bush fire in the Teapot Valley. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Helicopters using monsoon buckets dropping water on a flare-up in the Tasman bush fire in the Teapot Valley. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Tasman mayor Richard Kempthorne said this morning's updates were really heartening.

For evacuated residents, he said, as soon as you can be back you will.

"It's very encouraging a return is also being considered for the valleys in the fire zone."

Offers of help to fight the fire had been received from overseas and people "from Northland to Southland" were coming to help.

 

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