Council to pay bill for fighting Cable Bay fire

The Nelson City Council will initially cover the $60,000 to $80,000 bill for fighting a large fire in Cable Bay until the cost is recovered from either the contractor responsible or a national rural firefighting fund.

Nelson City Council network services executive manager Alec Louverdis said contractors from Nelson Contracting were working in Cable Bay Rd when the fire started last Thursday.

Mr Louverdis said they were drilling ground anchors to test the ground strength.

They were also making sure vibrations from roadworks would not damage Telecom fibre-optic cables positioned in the pavement.

The grinder was being used to modify the steel ground anchors, which was where the sparks came from.

About 50 firefighters and two helicopters with monsoon buckets fought the fire covering eight hectares on Ian and Barbara Stuart's property in Cable Bay Rd.

The fire did not threaten houses, but it was about 30 metres away from igniting heavier fuel - thick gorse, leading into a large pine forest.

Mr Louverdis said the council would pay the cost of fighting the fire on behalf of the Waimea Rural Fire Authority (WRFA), "because the fire occurred in our area".

"The WRFA will look to recover these costs on the council's behalf once the investigation has determined responsibility," he said.

"If the contractor is determined to be responsible, the WRFA will seek recovery from the contractor's insurance company."

WRFA principal fire officer Ian Reade said fire crews were at Cable Bay all weekend, damping down hot spots, but they pulled most of their gear out on Monday.

Mr Reade said the bill from the fire would be between $60,000 and $80,000, partly because it tied up two Nelson Marlborough rescue helicopters.

He said the council would act as "the banker" until the WRFA was able to recover from the contractors the cost of fighting the fire. "If we can't do that then we can apply to have it funded by the National Rural Fire Fund," he said.

Mr Reade said it was standard practice for the organisation who had authority over the area where the fire started to act as banker until the costs were recovered.

For example, if the fire had happened on Department of Conservation land or forestry land, or land administered by the Tasman District Council, those organisations would cover the initial bill until the costs were recovered.

Mrs Stuart said she and her husband were grateful the fire crews were able to stop the fire from getting into the 120ha pine plantation they owned with other people.

The Nelson Mail