20 Nov 2012

Awarua Wetland fire controlled

5:10 pm on 20 November 2012

A massive fire that swept through the Awarua Wetland near Invercargill is now under control.

The Southland wetland is considered globally significant because of its diverse plant and wildlife.

Five fire crews and three helicopters have spent the day battling the blaze, which has destroyed more than 450ha of Department of Conservation land.

Southern Rural Fire Authority spokesperson Sally Chesterfield says the fire crews have done an outstanding job.

She says firefighters are now dampening down hotspots and will remain overnight to ensure the blaze doesn't reignite.

It may take several days to completely dampen down the area.

A Police and Fire Service investigation is underway to determine if there was a criminal element to the blaze.

Earlier fears that underground peat would catch fire were unfounded as the high water table meant the land was too saturated too burn.

Awarua Wetland was the first wetland in New Zealand to be recognised under the Ramsar Convention, a global environmental treaty.