Foresters warn public running risk

Members of the public entering Otago forests without permits are endangering themselves, given the ongoing extreme fire risk.

Council-owned City Forests and Wenita Forest Products, Otago’s two largest foresters, have both stopped issuing permits for recreational activity in their forests.

Wenita chief executive David Cormack said: "People entering the forests unpermitted are putting themselves in danger ... we don’t know they’re in there if something happens."

Regardless of the fire ban, unpermitted access to forestry blocks was on "ongoing issue" at most times of the year.

Wenita has about 30,000ha of forests between Balclutha and Dunedin, including Mt Allan, while City Forests has about 17,000ha.

They are usually accessible by online permit applications, for activities including hunting, horse riding, hiking, mountain biking and motorcycling.

Wenita has issued almost 1200 permits over the past year.

Mr Cormack encouraged recreational use of the forests, by permit, because people acted as "eyes and ears" for the company, and most would report unusual or suspicious activity.

While there was some moisture and cooler temperatures expected this week, Mr Cormack said more rain was need before the ban was lifted.

"At the moment, it’s a day-by-day assessment," said.

He had been reassured by Fire and Emergency New Zealand that there were enough local staff to cope with a fire, and resources had not been depleted to help with the Nelson fires.


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