Shocked by lack of remorse

John Levy
John Levy
Members of the Upper Clutha Vegetation Control Group say they are shocked at the "complete lack of remorse" shown by a landowner whose permitted bracken burn-off sparked a large fire which charred 350ha on Wanaka's Roys Peak this week.

Comments made by the owner of Tuohys farm, John Levy, in yesterday's Otago Daily Times have angered the group, which was established to minimise the need to burn and reduce the risk of burns escaping permitted areas.

Its members include local run-holders with significant areas of bracken, fire authorities and interested community members.

Chairman Allan Kane said Mr Levy's description of burning being a natural process of rejuvenation showed "a complete lack of understanding of the local environment and conditions".

The UCVCG had been working to increase community understanding and communication surrounding vegetation control.

"Local farmers on the group would be extremely upset if the Wanaka community thought that Mr Levy's attitude was shared by all," Mr Kane said.

"Under no circumstances does the group condone endangering lives and destroying conservation land. The UCVCG hopes that the Wanaka community will not judge all farmers based on the actions of this lifestyler."

He said farmers in the group had an appreciation of conservation values and the need to protect them and he was concerned the fire would diminish the good work the group had done to date. This week's fire burnt about 70ha of conservation land.

"This year, those members of the group who have carried out controlled burns have done so without incident.

"The code of practice we developed and the closer working relationship with Doc have had a positive effect. To have this happen is very frustrating."

He said Mr Levy had not been involved with the group as it was not known he had a significant bracken area, or that he was planning to burn, and he encouraged all owners of lifestyle blocks thinking of burning to make contact with the group and attend meetings.

Mr Levy was unable to be contacted yesterday.

lucy.ibbotson@odt.co.nz