Fighting fire costs $100,000

Fire at Flagg Bay in Port Underwood
Fire at Flagg Bay in Port Underwood

A fire that destroyed a bach and five outbuildings at Port Underwood in the Marlborough Sounds last month cost taxpayers $100,000, principal rural fire officer Richard McNamara says.

More than 60 firefighters and support staff helped put out the fire and dampen down hotspots over four days at Flagg Bay on December 21.

It was the biggest fire of the year for Marlborough in terms of manpower, Mr McNamara said.

Six helicopters used to douse the flames with monsoon buckets cost almost $50,000. Another $50,000 would be spent on paying ground forces, including rural firefighters, who are paid about $38 an hour after the first hour. Contractors who supplied two tankers for bulk water supply also needed to be paid, Mr McNamara said.

A claim would be put to the national Rural Fire Fighting Fund, which is funded by taxpayers, to reclaim the money.

The cause of the fire is still being investigated, but it would be up to the New Zealand Fire Service Commission to take action against anyone found responsible, Mr McNamara said.

The Marlborough Kaikoura Rural Fire Authority was not funded by insurance levies as the New Zealand Fire Service was.

New Zealand has about 470 urban fire brigades funded through a levy paid by all insured property owners. The Fire Service had the right to charge the Rural Fire Authority if they assisted in a fire, Mr McNamara said.

The Marlborough Express