March 1, 2009
A couple who lived through the Opoutama fire hope the disaster will prompt their neighbours, councils and fire authorities to take better care of the land around them.
Nell and Tony Spencer say it's time the Wairoa District Council lifted its game with more work on keeping the trees and vegetation under control to prevent another fire from igniting.
Mrs Spencer and her family had to leave their home and stay with friends in nearby Nuhaka when the fire started.
She said she wanted to see action, not talk and previous attempts to contact the council had met a 'dead end'.
This month's fire was the fifth her family had experienced while living on YMCA Rd for 12 years. While the danger came near, she reckons she not going to move to live anywhere else.
'We do not believe enough attention is being made by either Wairoa council, Department of Conservation or Eastland network in helping keep our area safe for our residents,' Mrs Spencer said in a letter to Hawke's Bay Today.
She said she attempted to have some work done on removing trees but was told there might not be enough funding to do the job.
'Maybe a few dollars spent then could have prevented this last blaze,' Mrs Spencer said.
She said she wanted the council and DOC to look at roadside maintenance to provide the people of Mahia with some protection.
'If the vegetation is kept to the road boundaries, perhaps any further fires maybe better contained,' Mrs Spencer said.
Wairoa Mayor Les Probert said there was a lot of work 'going on in the background' which people who felt the effects of the fire might not be aware of.
He said he read Mrs Spencer's letter and that the council would take the issue seriously.
'The situation is that we have had a debrief with the fire fighters and thanked them for their efforts. We will be talking to local residents and seeing what issue arise.
'Some talk with residents has happened. It's being organised,' he said.
Mr Probert said it was important to thank the volunteers who worked hard to contain the fire and those who worked at the emergency headquarters at the Mahia Golf Club, looking after the firefighters.