A second prohibited campfire on Otago Peninsula reserve land
in as many weeks has again threatened the fragile yellow-eyed
penguin colony, prompting further frustration among
firefighters and Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust members.
Portobello firefighters were called to Okia Flat about 9pm on
Monday because a fire had been lit on the sand by a man who
was camping overnight, after kayaking to the southeast end of
the beach, Station Officer Jamie Ramsay said.
''The fire was on the sand, at the very end of the inlet part
of the beach, where there is certainly no fires allowed,'' he
Although the man was ''doing everything as safely as
possible'', the risk for a campfire to spread remained too
''It's just far too risky to even contemplate lighting a
fire. Sparks could have [gone] into the grass, which is
tinder dry at the moment,'' he said.
''There is an endangered species down there, so even smoking
poses a phenomenal risk.''
The campfire had been extinguished by the time firefighters
arrived at the remote location.
A fire appliance could not get to the beach, so a different
vehicle had to be used.
Firefighters spent 90 minutes responding to the incident.
A male tourist was labelled an idiot by Department of
Conservation (Doc) volunteers after he lit a campfire at
Sandfly Bay, near the threatened colony.
Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust general manager Sue Murray said the
fire on Monday was the ''last thing'' the colony needed, and
trust members were concerned.
''It is a strict no-fire zone anyway, but habitats are even
more vulnerable at the moment because of the dry conditions.
The fact that it's neighbouring a penguin breeding area gives
rise to concern as well,'' she said.
Earlier this month, it was discovered about 60 yellow-eyed
penguin adults had died along the Otago Peninsula. The cause
is being investigated.