Warning over Motuariki Island after fire

People asked to stay away after massive fire

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 05:00 13/01/2014
Moutaki Island fire
SUPPLIED/George Empson
ISLAND ABLAZE: Fire crews struggled to contain the fire on Moutaki Island in Lake Tekapo.

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Holiday makers are being asked to stay away from Motuariki Island in Lake Tekapo after a fire destroyed "close to 90 per cent" of its trees.

Tekapo Constable Brent Swanson said he had spoken to three Christchurch men in their 20s about the fire.

"They don't appear to have done anything illegal, it was obviously an accident," he said.

"We're not quite sure how it happened, and we're not going to press charges, but the Conservation Department might want to speak to them because there are some costs they would want to cover."

Rural fire officer Rob Hands said crews from Albury, Fairlie and Tekapo responded to the fire about 6.30pm on Saturday, but despite working "right through the night" had not been able to put out the blaze.

"The fire must have destroyed about 90 per cent of the island. We tried to return [on Sunday morning] to put out the blaze, but we just couldn't reach the island safely."

Motuariki Island is about 25 hectares and a popular picnic spot for holiday makers in Lake Tekapo.

Mr Hands said rural fire crews would monitor the situation, but people should stay away from the island.

"There are too many falling trees, and the smoke and debris is too much right now," he said.

Resident George Empson described the fire as "disgraceful".

"It was a very sad sight to see these beautiful pines of many years old ablaze. I do not know the cause of the fire but I know that I am damned annoyed," Mr Empson said.

Timaru resident John Keys was relaxing by the lake when he noticed the blaze.

"It kept going through the night, the firefighters tried their best to stop it. It got really big," Mr Keys said.

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- The Timaru Herald

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