Forestry companies support the safety of Nelson Tasman communities during fire season

Top of the South forestry companies and Fire and Emergency New Zealand have taken a new step in their longstanding collaboration to make our communities safer from vegetation fires this summer.

The forestry companies OneFortyOne New Zealand, Tasman Pine Forests and PF Olsen Ltd have signed an agreement allocating funding, people resources, training and equipment to manage fire risk in the Nelson Tasman region.

Fire and Emergency District Manager Grant Haywood said the new agreement with forestry companies formalised and extended local arrangements that have existed for several years.

“Forestry companies are valued partners in fighting rural fires all around New Zealand, and it’s no exception in our District,” he said. “They bring valuable skills and knowledge in tackling forests and vegetation fires, and we appreciate being able to call on forestry crews to work alongside our firefighters.

From November last year, Fire and Emergency took over the management of all rural fire services in Nelson Tasman that had previously been contracted to the Rural Fire Network Ltd (RFN). Now RFN is working with the forestry companies and supporting the implementation of the new agreement.

Based at the Tapawera Fire Store, Manager of Rural Fire Network Ian Reade said there are 50 fire-trained forestry contractors available to assist in the event of a fire.  

“Along with their knowledge of local terrain and forests, the forestry contractors are hill fit, meaning if there is a prolonged fire event in rugged terrain they can keep fighting fires safely day after day without excessive fatigue.

Forestry company employees could also fill roles in an Incident Management Team if needed during an extended fire response.  “Roles such as GIS fire mapping, machinery and operations management, technical fire behaviour,  planning and logistical functions are all skills that closely relate to a forester’s day to day work.” Ian said.

Another agreement between the forestry companies and Fire and Emergency New Zealand allows for the continued operation of the Richmond Hill Lookout for the 2021/22 fire season.

Local Lookout Attendant Robbie Campbell is based at the lookout full time during the fire season. His job doesn’t just focus on watching for fires. He also acts as a local communications hub for firefighters, forestry personnel and the public. Richmond Hill is one of a network of four lookouts that are still in place, maintained and sometimes used in very high fire danger situations.

Grant Haywood said in spite of the recent wet weather, rural fires remained a constant risk over summer and the relationship with forestry companies was an important part of building resilience in the community. “Our firefighters have been working alongside forestry crews for many years. We know we can rely on each other and that’s important for our region.”

Field trip with OneFortyOne and Fire & Emergency New Zealand – View from the Richmond fire lookout.

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