Island hit by fire not safe to visit

The future of a popular Lake Tekapo recreational spot is still uncertain nearly six months after it was devastated by fire.

South Canterbury rural fire principal officer Rob Hands said it had sent letters to three men responsible for the fire, which devastated much of the area on Motuariki Island. However, none of them had responded to the letters, nor had they repaid their costs.

"Sometimes these things take a while," Hands said. "It will eventually be processed by the national office, but it's not something that's high on our list."

Hands estimated the total cost for the callout and cleanup would be about $6000.

Motuariki Island is about 25 hectares and a popular picnic spot for holidaymakers at Lake Tekapo.

Rural fire crews spent several days battling the fire, which was caused after three tourists, in their 20s, accidentally left a campsite unattended on January 11.

It was now believed that between 40 and 50 per cent of the island's trees were destroyed.

Twizel Department of Conservation ranger Neil Bolton said there were still warning signs on the island for safety purposes.

"It is advised not to approach the island. We will review the situation in spring, once the wind gets up and brings down some of the hazardous trees, and clear some of the debris," he said.

"The local iwi has a very strong interest in the island. The dialogue needs to carry on. We appreciate the public have a strong interest in the future of the island, but these things take time."

When the local power boat and water-ski club looked after Motuariki Island in the 1960s, it introduced sheep to graze the land. At the time, the Herald reported this reduced the fire risk at the island, but a DOC spokeswoman said the department had not made any decisions on planting or other restoration methods.

The Timaru Herald