Those people living in the high fire risk area, the "Red
Zone", have access to what has been called New Zealand's
leading wild fire response system, and this Saturday they
will be informed of the complete switch from telephone
warning system to pagers.
A Red Zone Community Firesmart Day on Saturday from midday to
2pm at Closeburn Station will be attended by residents,
emergency services personnel, and representatives from the
Queenstown Lakes District Council and the Department of
It will bring residents together for the first time since the
pager system was introduced in August.
Doc rural fire officer Jamie Cowan said it would be a time to
talk about the new system and discuss red zone plans as the
fire season approached.
In 2005, 30 homes were evacuated following the Closeburn fire
and residential fire wardens introduced a telephone tree fire
At present, a dual system is operating, with some residents
having pagers and some still relying on telephone alerts.
Messages did not reach recipients at the same time, unlike
Mr Cowan said the phone system was "slow and cumbersome" and
in many of the locations there was no cellphone reception so
this was not an option as it was in many Australian fire risk
The red zone community comprises the residents of Bob's Cove,
Closeburn Station, Wilsons Bay, Moke Rd and Skyline, about
100 homes, and all were aware of the fire danger when living
among wilding pines and sloping hills.
The area was subject to a 365-day total fire ban.
The pager system rolled out in August consists of a $7000
Doc-funded transmitter at Wilsons Bay, and individual pagers
costing $250 to be bought by residents.
"Part of this day will be demonstrating the pager," Mr Cowan
There will also be information about evacuations, regarding
what to do and where to go.
"Once we have had this day ...
we are going to switch over and we won't be ringing anymore."
There had been "a lot of interest from different parts of the
country" about the pager system.
"I think the wild fire response plan in Queenstown is
probably one of the leading in New Zealand.
"It's a top system."
While he hoped not to use the system, it was inevitable it
would be needed.
"The reality is we have a history of fire throughout the lake
face and it is only a matter of time," Mr Cowan said.