Cause of major Flagstaff fire will never be known

The cause of a major fire that burnt 30ha and closed several popular Dunedin tracks will never be known.

The September Flagstaff fire sparked a large-scale response from firefighters, aided by eight helicopters, and temporarily closed 14 walking tracks.

At the time, police believed the fire was suspicious and appealed to the public for information.

However, yesterday Otago Principal Rural Fire Officer Graeme Still confirmed the cause of the fire was officially unknown.

A fire investigation report had been completed, which was the final step in the investigation process.

The Otago Daily Times has requested a copy of the report under the Official Information Act.

Meanwhile, information released under the Official Information Act shows a 5000ha blaze near Middlemarch started on Department of Conservation land, and the department will have to cover the cost of fighting the fire.

In a written response, Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fenz) deputy chief executive Raewyn Bleakley said Fenz would recover costs, including for personnel and equipment, from the department.

She said 16 external contractors assisted with the firefighting operation, including two heavy machinery contractors, and 11 aircraft were contracted to help.

Department of Conservation Southern South Island operations director Aaron Fleming said insurance would not cover the cost, and it was unclear where the money would come from.

"The cost to the department will sit as a cost pressure and there are various options of how this may be managed," he said.

The investigation report into the fire would be completed in about two weeks, and both the cause and cost of the fire were still unknown, he said.

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