Call to make camper pay for blaze

The person responsible for a fire that burned more than 100ha of forest and tussock land in the Mt Aspiring National Park last year should foot the firefighting bill, a report recommends.

At an Otago Conservation Board meeting in Alexandra this week, a report was tabled which included details of Department of Conservation office activities throughout Otago.

It said the fire investigation report for the December 2013 East Matukituki Valley fire was completed and ''recommends that full fire suppression cost recovery be sought from the individual responsible''.

At the time of the fire, Wanaka-based conservation services manager Chris Sydney told the Otago Daily Times he did not want to pre-empt the department's formal investigation but it seemed ''fairly apparent'' the fire had been started by ''a guy who had a small campsite up there''.

The man was a New Zealander who spent some of his time in the Queenstown Lakes district, he said.

The fire on steep, remote terrain at an altitude of about 800m-900m was the first in the park for at least eight or nine years.

Yesterday, Wanaka Doc office spokeswoman Annette Grieve said following on from the recommendations in the report the department would now ''explore options'' for the recovery of fire suppression costs and because the matter was sensitive in regards to the individual concerned, there would be no further comment at this time.

She was unable to provide the costs involved in fighting the fire, which involved ground crews and three helicopters.

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