Urumau Reserve fire risk 'getting beyond a joke’

Brian Lodge wants to know if the work at Urumau Reserve will be finished before the fire season.
Brian Lodge wants to know if the work at Urumau Reserve will be finished before the fire season.
Lyttelton residents want Christchurch City Council to tell them when work to reduce fire risk at a reserve will be finished.

Residents of Foster Tce, next to the Urumau Reserve, want the maintenance completed by the end of the year due to the upcoming dry summer forecast.

“There’s more potentially starting to happen. We need to keep an eye on and make certain they are doing it,” said Foster Tce resident Brian Lodge (right).

The homes on Foster Tce are located directly underneath the council-owned reserve’s boundaries.

“It doesn’t take much. It could be just somebody throwing a cigarette in the area and then we’re in trouble,” said Lodge.

Contractors employed by the city council began additional maintenance work from November 14 to 17. Residents do not know when they are coming back. 

Lodge said council upkeep of the reserve had become irregular since the February 22, 2011, earthquake.

The contractors mowed the grass track and removed some flammable plants and weeds.

In 2021, a Fire and Emergency NZ risk assessment found the reserve needed consistent mowing during summer.

Lodge and another Foster Tce resident, Anne Sergison, have been calling for a more consistent mowing schedule and fire resistant plant species to create an effective buffer between the reserve and properties.

Lyttelton fire chief Mark Buckley would not comment on the state of the fire risk at the reserve. Sergison, who lives at the end of Foster Tce, said the space between the track and her property has become overgrown.

She has been asking for the area to be tidied up over the past two years.

“It’s getting beyond a joke.”

The recent maintenance carried out was not near Sergison’s property. 

The FENZ assessment also found the removal of dead plant material would reduce fire risk.

Lodge said earlier this month, a Port Hills ranger visited Urumau and recognised additional work was needed.

A city council spokesperson said the planned maintenance was “mainly due to increased growth this year compared to other years” and “a forecasted higher fire danger season”.

Lodge said he and others have made numerous presentations to the council, community board and reserve committees since regular maintenance stopped after the earthquake.

“I feel as if I have complained enough. Very little has been done as a result up until now.”

Brian Lodge. Photo: Supplied
Brian Lodge. Photo: Supplied
Going forward, Lodge and Sergison want more certainty about how often mowing of the track will take place.

They also want the new maintenance complete by the end of the year, before the dry season begins.

“I’d like to see it done sooner rather than later,” Sergison said.

A council spokesperson said contractors and council rangers will be working to maintain the reserve as often “as required.”

There is no schedule for when the maintenance will occur to allow for flexibility, the spokesperson said.

Last Friday, the council spokesperson said the next round of maintenance will likely take place in two to three weeks.