Public warned to avoid island

Motuariki Island, in Lake Tekapo,  burns  on Saturday night. Photo by Brian High.
Motuariki Island, in Lake Tekapo, burns on Saturday night. Photo by Brian High.

Motuariki Island at Lake Tekapo is still smouldering following a devastating fire three days ago, and people should stay away, the Department of Conservation says.

The New Zealand Fire Service was alerted to a fire on Motuariki Island, Lake Tekapo, about 6.30pm on Saturday, and although Doc fire crews worked with NZFS, South Canterbury Rural Fire District, Coastguard New Zealand and Tekapo residents to contain the fire, it became too dangerous to continue when night fell.

Doc fire crews assessed the situation again on Sunday, but it was deemed too dangerous for any further suppression efforts to take place due to both weather and ground conditions.

Doc Central South Island regional fire manager Tom Barr said the island was still unsafe yesterday.

Mr Barr said signs had now been placed at boat-launching sights to warn that fire still posed a risk to anyone who intended to land on the island.

''The message to the public is clear. For your own safety, stay away from the island.

''By all means, look from the water but please don't go on to the island. It's extremely unsafe. There are some very old, tall pines that could fall at any time.''

Both Doc and South Canterbury Rural Fire District are still investigating the cause of the fire, which burned an estimated 80% of the island's vegetation.

Doc Partnerships South Canterbury manager Sally Jones said she was greatly impressed by the community's response to the blaze.

''The Tekapo New Zealand Fire Service volunteer brigade were on the island within 40 minutes of the fire breaking out, pumps going, via the local police officer's boat.

''The heroic response to this event clearly demonstrates the value of this special place to iwi, the local community and visitors to the area.

''It's early days for the recovery but the department recognises both the huge cultural significance of this place and the desire from iwi and the public to restore Motuariki, and we will look into the possibilities around this.''

Lake Tekapo Volunteer Fire Brigade Chief Fire Officer Craig Willis said while the fire was not the biggest he had attended, the destruction of vegetation was ''a pretty big loss'' to the community.

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