27 Jan 2015

Lack of awareness 'more of a fire risk'

3:05 pm on 27 January 2015

A rural fire officer says there have been more fires in Canterbury's Hurunui district in past two months, than in the past three years, but the size of a property has nothing to do with the fire risk.

North Canterbury land owner Hamish Hutton called for the size of life style blocks to be reduced by councils because he said they were a barrier to agricultural productivity and increased the rural fire risk.

Hurunui District Council principal rural fire officer Allan Grigg said the area was full of dry, brown grass and vegetation which could easily ignite and spread quickly.

But he said he had more concern about land owners awareness of fire risk and how they maintained their land.

"We tend to find that there are definitely some lifestyle blocks that are brought by people who want to live the farming life but don't necessarily know how to manage a land block, but it's not just limited to those lifestyle blocks, there's a large number of subdivisions going on all across Canterbury at the moment and we find a lot of those in the development phase.

"The land is bought, perhaps divided with a little bit of land work, but then it's left the way it is until the legal processes are completed by which time a lot of those blocks are badly overgrown.

"I've lost track of the amount of fires we've had in the Hurunui District but I can say with confidence that we've had more fires in the last two months than the last three years."

Mr Grigg said lifestyle blocks could make fighting fires more difficult because they did not have as many access points as a farm would.

"Because they don't have the big trucks coming and going for picking up stock or crops or whatever, a lot of these people essentially develop their block particularly around their house with more sort of smaller suburban access ways, which is fine if it's only 10 or 20 metres long, but some of these driveways are built for small vehicles but they can be hundreds of metres long, so making it a real problem for our rural fire appliances to get up those driveways and access buildings."

Mr Grigg said most farmers were good with precautions but he recommended having water tankers or trailers on stand by when gathering crops in hot, dry conditions.

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