The Department of Conservation is furious that a fire was
deliberately lit last evening on the edge of the Okarito kiwi
sanctuary on the West Coast, home to the world's most rare
kiwi, the rowi.
The daytime fire, in pakihi swamp along the Okarito Forks
Road, did not harm the three pair of rowi nesting in the
area, but DOC conservation services manager Wayne Costello,
of Franz Josef Glacier, said it was still a "senseless act of
Only 400 rowi remain, mostly living in the Okarito forest and
The fire burned about half a hectare before it was
extinguished by volunteer firefighters from nearby Whataroa
and Franz Josef Glacier.
"We take our hats off to the brigades - they both did a
brilliant job," Mr Costello said.
It was a worry that the fire was lit in the same area where
arsonists lit a series of fires in February 2010, again
threatening the kiwi colony.
At that time, four separate fires were set early in the
morning in a dry swamp area around the Pakihi Walk, about
halfway between State highway 6 and Okarito township.
Franz Josef Glacier Volunteer Fire Brigade spokesman Tim Gibb
said the fire yesterday was easier to control as the area was
Firefighters were on the scene from about 6pm until 8.30pm.
Mr Gibb said it appeared to have been deliberately lit, and
he believed tourists were the likely culprits.
Mr Costello said he was at a loss to explain why anyone would
set fire to an area where it was well known that rare
"People down here value the area and look after it. It's hard
to explain why others commit such senseless acts."
After the 2010 fires the tiny Okarito community rallied
together to post a $10,000 reward for information leading to
prosecution of the firebug, but no information was
Mr Costello said kiwi living in the area were probably only
spared this time because the blaze happened during daylight
hours; kiwi were nocturnal.
Rowi were known to frequent that area of pakihi but "they
were lucky enough not to have been there on this occasion".
"They would have been within a kilometre of the site."
- By Viv Logie of of the Greymouth Star