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Fires are the new normal

Written By: - Date published: 7:03 am, February 17th, 2017 - 65 comments
Categories: bill english, climate change, disaster, global warming, useless - Tags: , ,

In the midst of this piece on bungling Gerry Brownlee’s ill-timed criticism of the Port Hills fire emergency response, came this little gem from Bill English:

English said no one could have anticipated the large-scale fire on the Port Hills.

That’s not exactly true is it. I don’t know how far back the predictions and warnings go, but this NIWA Fire Research Report from 2005 said:

Results from this study indicate that New Zealand is likely to experience more severe fire weather and fire danger, especially in the Bay of Plenty, east of both islands and the central (Wellington/Nelson) regions.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007 said:

Production from agriculture and forestry is projected to decline by 2030 over parts of eastern New Zealand due to increased drought and fire.

…fragmented native forests of drier lowland areas (Northland, Waikato, Manawatu) and in the east (from East Cape to Southland) are likely to be most vulnerable to drying and changes in fire regimes.

The Ministry of the Environment in 2008 warns of:

…increased fire risk in drier eastern areas

The OFFICE OF THE PRIME MINISTER’S SCIENCE ADVISORY COMMITTEE in 2013 said:

In addition, the probable increased occurrence of droughts and high temperatures will lead to elevated fire risk. … Frequency, intensity and length of the fire season may all increase. … The risk of wild fires also is projected to increase.

The Royal Society of New Zealand in 2016 said:

New Zealand is already experiencing, for example, more frequent floods, storms and droughts, scrub and forest fires causing damage to the environment and people’s livelihoods.

The Ministry of the Environment again, in 2016, in the section on Canterbury:

Fire risk – Strong winds, combined with high temperatures, low humidity and seasonal drought may result in an increased fire risk in some areas (such as Christchurch, Kaikoura, and Darfield). The length of the fire season is expected to increase.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture. It’s not the case that “no one could have anticipated the large-scale fire on the Port Hills”. Just about every relevant organisation could and did predict it. Most of the other predictions relating to climate change will come true too. We need a government that is prepared to think ahead and act, not one with its head stuck way up where the sun don’t shine.

65 comments on “Fires are the new normal ”

  1. Corokia 1

    If only journalists would call out the PM on comments like that in live interviews instead of asking stupid questions like about how people feel about being evacuated.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 1.1

      It won’t be his last interview.

      Brownlee’s ugly behaviour plus English’s Physics denial are grist for the mill. I hope they both come out mangled.

  2. Ethica 2

    In another stupid climate change denial decision Stephen Joyce refuses to allow Auckland a fuel tax to fund public transport. And the government opens a huge white elephant motorway through the Kapiti coast so more cars can drive into and clog up Wellington. Upgrading and electrify the main trunk railway into an efficient passenger transport link would have been the wiser thing to do.

    • Johan 2.1

      It seems the National gov’t is hell-bent on letting the city of Auckland find other ways to pay for its infrastructure upgrade, like forcing them to sell its assets.
      Please remind me, why myself and many Aucklanders have paid mega-bucks in ACC levies and massive insurance increases, in order fix earthquake damaged areas around New Zealand??? I thought that we were in this together.

      • tc 2.1.1

        National wants akls assets flogged to its mates. Supercity is a bungled attempt at achieving that.

        If these assets werent public still theyd be breaking the bank to pour public money into private hands with a deal set in concrete.

      • Red 2.1.2

        Whats wrong in selling assets to buy new assets, sounds entirely appropriate to me, beyond some idealogue view around asset ownership, who care who owns the airport or port etc, they are not going anywhere, just like my car on the motorway most evenings

      • You do realise that Auckland actually gets more than its share of central government infrastructure money already, right?

        I’m not saying that’s necessarily entirely wrong, (Auckland does have transport and housing problems to solve, after all, not that most of them wouldn’t be better solved by moving a fair chunk of people out of Auckland) but it’s a little tone-death to be begrudging the EQ response which was largely paid for out of an existing Natural Disaster Fund because our stupid government won’t let local government use a local fuel levy (the EQC levy going into the NDF is the only thing the govt touched for your insurance- they’re charging you an extra $100 a year for EQCover (previously it was only a $50 annual levy) in case that Auckland volcano eruption becomes a thing anytime soon so we have money set aside in that fund for the next disaster. Seems fair in my book. If your insurance went up more that that combined over your house and contents, that’s on your insurer, fyi. And yeah, you’re right that the ACC levy was kept too high in a desperate attempt to soften it up for privatisation. That sorta stuff is why we’ve gotta change the government)

        We’re in this together, but don’t be surprised if that means we have to pull the rug out from under Auckland a bit even if the government changes, as the regions and Christchurch are really who need the love at this stage, and Aucklanders honestly aren’t aware that they’ve gotten it pretty good already. Besides, boosting the regions and Christchurch will trickle on to Auckland and Wellington eventually anyway.

    • Wayne 2.2

      New Zealand is way behind other developed countries in the quality (and quantity) of its roads.

      Wellington needs Transmission Gully just as Auckland needs a full motorway connection to Hamilton and beyond and north to Wellsford. Traffic safety being a key reason and a reduction in time travelled. They will both save fuel because of the shorter and more efficient journeys.

      There is no way that main trunk rail can replace any of these projects. In fact New Zealand’s low population density makes rail pretty much irrelevant except in a few places. I know that there are some people who do not own a car. But they all seem to live in central Auckland or central Wellington, and are mostly students and young people without children. Virtually everyone else needs a car for the multifarious journeys they make through the week. Rail simply cannot replace the car. Even in the densest and largest cities in the world, there is combination of road and rail.

      I agree the Wellington rail system works well and the CRL is essential in Auckland. Possibly also an eastern feeder in Auckland would be good. And I would support electrification from Auckland to Wellington. It will mean more efficient trains, and in any event most of the route is already electrified.

      I am waiting for the opening of the Western Ring Route motorway in Auckland in the next few weeks. It will make a huge difference. No rail project would have anything like the impact.

      When the Greens condemn every single roading project in NZ, and say they could all be replaced by rail, they are effectively telling around 90% of voters not to vote for them. If the Greens could be a bit more selective about which projects they don’t like, they might find their message would have broader appeal.

      • reason 2.2.1

        Is Wayne improving? ….he withheld himself from saying ‘green taliban’ …

        National came to power while attacking New Zealands first baby steps in climate change regulations …. calling them Nany-state, Authoritarian, Helengrad

        But we were not to worry as our new nat PM,..’ Johhny made-off’…, well he cared about climate change … and he was very smart.

        Unfortunately New zealands policy was exposed as trading in fraud …. while enriching polluters who joined in to scam money ……. and keep on polluting of course.

        Their cow economy which is poisoning our rivers gets multiple bites above its normal global warming capacity …

        Our imported cattle feed involves us in ongoing deforestation and human rights abuses …… as what little that is left of forests, the natural lungs of the world are cut or burned down.

        I suspect Wayne believes in climate change …. but believes he will die and get out before consequences …..

        A fallen banal warrior …of them Green Taliban terrorists …Helens Iwi separatist rebels … and other PC scum.

        Putting him under a road would be a great honor to the man .

      • Macro 2.2.2

        I am waiting for the opening of the Western Ring Route motorway in Auckland in the next few weeks. It will make a huge difference. No rail project would have anything like the impact.

        Wayne you have to be joking!
        All it will do is shift the gridlock from one place to another.
        Auckland seriously needs to reduce the number of vehicles on its roads; and do it fast; and there is only one way to do that; and that is to increase and dramatically improve public transportation.

      • mauī 2.2.3

        New Zealand is way behind other developed countries in the quality (and quantity) of its roads.

        Don’t think so. In fact I more often hear how good our roads are compared to other countries and how well built they are.

        Wellington doesn’t need transmission gully, it’s an incredible waste of resources and I would say Auckland doesn’t need much of the monstrous new roading projects either. If we had focused on building quality public transport 50 years ago and fought to keep it in place we wouldn’t be in the transport mess we’re in now. These kind of mega roading projects might have been a good idea in the 1950s and 60s when cheap oil was neverending and people were none the wiser about how motorways destroy communities and the surrounding built environment. Now they look like an almighty folly, and I’m no doubt there’s going to be many in the future looking at these structures and thinking what a waste and what stupidity.

      • Actually the Greens condemn focusing on roading projects with cost-benefit analyses lower than mass transit solutions like rail. It’s fair to spend some money on roading, we need it in the regions and we need it to run buses. But we don’t need expensive holiday highways that often have fractional cost-benefit ratios, (that is, they cost more than they provide) even with Transport stacking the decks in favour of road travel by “compensating drivers for lost time.” (ie. not factoring in that mass transit allows passengers to, say, read a book, or do something productive while travelling, when compared to driving a car) This is the Greens’ primary objection to National’s wasteful roading projects. It’s okay to do roading where there is a legitimate need. It’s not okay to prioritise it over more effective solutions.

        Amusing you mention transmission gully, which has a CB of .6, meaning you are literally throwing away 40% of its cost, or about $404m, if you build it. Wellington does need some roading upgrades, but the only real argument for transmission gully is one of redudancy, not of actual benefit to the region. It’s literally just proposing we sink a billion dollars to give Wellington a backup highway in case of landslides, and while maybe a backup highway is on the lists of things Wellington could do with, it’s way further down that list than you suggest if it’s at a .6 benefits-to-costs ratio.

        You’re on the wrong side of this, as usual.

  3. Bill 3

    Excellent post Anthony. Succinct.

    My immediate reaction is that minus the links, a version of this could and should have had prominence in the Herald, the Dom Post and the ODT. To the degree that anyone thinks that’s removed from reality, I reckon it indicates the degree to which we’re removed from reality. Know what I mean?

    • weka 3.1

      I also thought this was a great post, just says it all really.

      The only thing I’ve seen in the MSM (it crossed my path, I haven’t gone looking) is this from RNZ,

      Fires like the huge one burning in the Port Hills are rare in New Zealand but are likely to become more common, a rural fire expert says.

      Dr Tara Strand, the rural fire team research leader at Scion Research, said the behaviour of the fire – which included how fast the fire was moving, the height of the flames, erratic spotting, and flare-ups – was what experts would call “extreme fire”.

      “New Zealand has had large fires like this one before,” Dr Strand said.

      “However, this fire is unique in that it is so close to a large population. Impact is huge within the affected communities and the wider city.”

      Read RNZ’s full Q+A with Dr Tara Strand here

      Climate change would contribute to heightened fire risk in the future, similar to the size and scale of the Port Hills blaze, she said.

      “The combination of climate, vegetation change and people … [means] we are likely to see this type of fire behaviour increase throughout the drier parts of New Zealand.”

      New Zealand’s maritime enviroment had “buffered” the country from extreme fire seen in other continents such as Australia and America, Dr Strand said.

      But extreme fire would increase here if the climate trend continued.

      There were still ways people could protect themselves, she said.

      “Make sure you cut back vegetation away from your home, keep the grass short, water the yard if you can. Work with your community to develop defensible spaces – green space, fire breaks.”

      http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/324681/climate-increasing-future-risk-of-big-wildfires-rural-fire-expert

      Just having a read through that Q and A.

  4. dukeofurl 4

    As I said in another post about these fires
    Looking at NIWA’s rainfall anomaly in the Canterbury area over last 60 days.

    http://www.niwa.co.nz/static/climate/last60daysspi.png?1234

    , its ‘near normal’
    There doesnt seem to be an extreme weather occasion in the area that can be linked to climate change.

    • weka 4.1

      And as I pointed out, you appear to not understand what climate is and how it relates to the landscape. In an area like Canterbury, the wind is easily as big a factor as rain fall in creating dry conditions. Then there is human activity.

      I’m also thinking 60 days isn’t the right timeframe, probably need to look at last winter and spring rainfall too, but even then it’s the state of the land from recent years.

      This is the problem with using numbers to understand complex phenomena. They’re just one set of data and they’re not an analysis. Have a talk to some gardeners and such from the area, they’ll tell you about what’s been going on there too.

      • Poission 4.1.1

        Over this christchurch summer the temperature has been colder,and January wetter.

        There was substantial growth on the port hills (green in january),and under story growth in the bushstands around kennedys bush.

        The storm tracks (and accompanying westerly winds) are a result of the antarctic oscillation (SAM) being in its negative phase and this is the Climate State that effects NZ most (globally it is also the largest redistribution of mass)

        The scientific thinking (read experiments) is under a warming world the westerly windbelts would contract poleward ( a positive SAM regime) here we have an equatorward excursion ie opposite sign to expectations which one would expect from time to time due to natural variation (read random persistence).

        Underlying scientific theory is the AO is stratospheric driven,hence the dynamics respond to ozone depletion,and the annular solar forcing .

        https://resources.stuff.co.nz/content/dam/images/1/h/8/u/b/g/image.related.StuffLandscapeSixteenByNine.620×349.1h8lkx.png/1487120697474.jpg

      • dukeofurl 4.1.2

        You seem to be making it up.
        “Climate change in IPCC usage refers to a change in the state of the climate that can be identified (e.g. using statistical tests) by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties, and that persists for an extended period.”

        Your test is talking to local gardners and throwing away Niwas figures because they dont suit.

        There seems to be other events in some locations , eg Paris floods, that were linked to climate change, but Im sure they didnt ask Paris taxi drivers about the rain to find that out.

        • weka 4.1.2.1

          “Climate change in IPCC usage refers to a change in the state of the climate that can be identified (e.g. using statistical tests) by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties, and that persists for an extended period.”

          Sure. But we are talking about an event that happened locally and whether the local climate contribution to that event was also influenced by climate change. You appear to be trying to say that because one set of climate data for the area doesn’t match your ideas about CC then we can’t ascribe any CC effect to the local climate’s impact on the fires.

          I’m saying that all local climate is now part of the bigger picture climate change and it’s a nonsense to be trying to argue that it’s not part of what is going on. CC is already here, it’s not in the future.

          “Your test is talking to local gardners and throwing away Niwas figures because they dont suit.”

          No. Reread what I said, because it certainly wasn’t that and you already know how much I hate having my views misrepresented. I said there were limits to relying on one set of data, and that people who work in the landscape have additional sets of data as well as analyses.

          “There seems to be other events in some locations , eg Paris floods, that were linked to climate change, but Im sure they didnt ask Paris taxi drivers about the rain to find that out.”

          If those taxi drivers had worked there for 40 or 50 years then I would also be listening to them. City planners and engineers who have lived there likewise.

          The IPCC can’t tell us what we should be doing locally about CC. We need varied experts weighing in on that one. What the big picture CC data and analysis can tell us is the kinds of things that r0b talked about in his post. What areas generally are going to be drier, wetter, windier etc. But locals will still be the ones that have to figure out what to do.

          • dukeofurl 4.1.2.1.1

            You have a different definition to how climate change is measured- OK, no need to mansplain them

            • weka 4.1.2.1.1.1

              lol, ok you’re either too thick to follow the argument or you are trolling. I’m picking the latter.

              • dukeofurl

                You are one trolling – talk to local gardeners indeed. Anecdotal reports are often the worst sort of evidence, but why bother when NIWA has very good records and make it very easy for school age people to understand with their graphs. Maybe if you took a year 12 course on climate you would have a better opinion to use in your posting.

                • weka

                  How dry was the ground on the Port Hills in the past 12 months? The past month? How much rain was there in the spring? How much dry vs green undergrowth was there? I’m not an expert in scrub or forest fires, so there are probably more pertinent questions, but I do know that there are questions to be asked that NIWA won’t have the figures for. People who work in that area will have knowledge built up over a long period of time that complements CC and local climate data. Don’t get hung up on the gardener thing, replace that word with soil scientist or ecologist if it helps.

                  I can tell you that in the dry climate I live in that the locals who think about this shit know what burns and what doesn’t. And they can tell the difference from year to year and season to season. Your limited data set can’t do that, because it’s limited, because that’s not what it is designed for, and because data doesn’t equal analysis.

                  You still seem to be confusing climate change with local climate and how to apply both sets of data in an integrated way with the landscape. We haven’t even gotten to the weather from the past week.

                  “Anecdotal reports are often the worst sort of evidence,”

                  Only if you don’t know how to work with different kinds of data. People who think that the only useful data comes from hard science then stand around having stupid conversations about whether CC is to blame while the back paddock is on fire. Wake up man.

                  • dukeofurl

                    I provided that data in my first link, which you dont even have any understanding of, so I’ll inform you

                    Standardised Precipitation Index (SPI) | NIWA
                    The Standardised Precipitation Index (SPI) is a simple measure of drought (and also of very wet conditions) and is based solely on the accumulated precipitation for a given time period (e.g. over the last 30 or 60 days), compared with the long-term average precipitation for that period. This precipitation difference (or anomaly) is “standardised” by dividing by the long-term standard deviation of precipitation for that period.

                    Who would have thought – that Niwa have a drought index for Canterbury area which shows -“near normal”

                    But I despair with your incoherent babble where you wear your ignorance as some sort of badge of honour

                    • weka

                      I already knew that you think rainfall is the only factor in drought. And I already knew that you wanted to run CC denial lines. Whoopdefuckingdo.

                    • dukeofurl

                      As I suspected the Troll who lives at the bottom of the garden

                  • Antoine

                    We’re not saying that climate change isn’t happening or that it won’t increase the risk of fires in future, just that it is not obviously a factor in this particular fire

                    A.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      That can be said for 100% of individual fires. Not exactly a useful piece of information.

                    • weka

                      I would go further and say it’s a piece of information that is dangerous. Like I said, let’s stand around and argue about the numbers while the back paddock is on fire. And getting closer every minute.

                      To me it is an obvious factor, because we already live in the age of CC, and we already experience extreme weather events and natural disasters, and we already see overlaps between those CC, those events, our land management practices, and our various abilities to respond.

                      For instance (and I might do a post on this), there is a conversation to be had apparently around CD management. But there is an equally important conversation to be had about land management on the Port Hills and every other rural land around any human settlement (and that’s not even getting to concern about natural ecosystems). At base this is about how to make our landscapes more resilient to fire e.g. planting trees that aren’t fire incubators. But we need to be having some pretty urgent conversations about ecosystems and their importance in both mitigation and adaptation. If there was 20 year old forest regeneration on those hills, that means we are now 20 years behind and it will be so much more difficult for that land to regenerate going forward. Forests are vital on so man levels.

                      And that takes us to collective management of land and getting past the idea that we have a god given right to do what we like if we hold title. Laws are going to have to change.

                      If we hadn’t spent the last 40 years arguing about the fucking numbers, and had instead taken CC seriously, that fire probably wouldn’t have happened. And most of the east of the SI wouldn’t be heading for being a desert.

                    • Antoine

                      I’m all in favour of responsible land management in a changing world

                      A.

    • Antoine 4.2

      I suspect the impact of changes to rural land use far exceed those of climate change, so far

      A.

      • weka 4.2.1

        What are you thinking of specifically, and over what time period?

        • Antoine 4.2.1.1

          My thoughts are fuzzy, I’m pondering gorse, dry grass, wilding pine trees, and what not.

          A.

          • Antoine 4.2.1.1.1

            I haven’t been there for some years unfortunately

          • weka 4.2.1.1.2

            Sure, but those things have been there a long time.

            • Antoine 4.2.1.1.2.1

              The mix changes

              • Antoine

                Just saw this on Stuff (excuse long quote):

                The Port Hills were vulnerable to quick-moving fires due to its large area of flammable plants, said Lincoln University senior ecology lecturer Dr Tim Curran.

                Older gorse plants in particular were highly flammable, as was bracken, pine trees, and native kanukas.

                “You’ve got a fuel mix there which means large chunks of the Port Hills and the Banks Peninsula are actually covered in this quite flammable vegetation,” he said.

                “If you get an entire tree going up you’re going to get a very intense, hot fire. If the fuel is continuous enough you’re going to get a canopy fire, which is what we’ve seen.

                “You’ve got the fire moving through the canopy, so it gets very hot and can burn very quickly and can be quite devastating.”

                He said it was worth considering ways to reduce the flammability of the vegetation on the hills.

                No doubt we’ll get more on this in the media in the days and weeks to come.

                Vegetation management always a concern in dry areas…

                A.

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  Wet vegetation doesn’t burn very well. Obviously the type of vegetation is also a factor.

                  If only we had some scientific bodies that could help us understand this better.

                  • Antoine

                    Wot like the guy i just quoted?

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      Yes, him.

                      Dr Curran says the risk of fire danger is only expected to increase in coming years as climate change leaves many parts of the country hotter and drier.

                    • Antoine []

                      I don’t disagree

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      It can be quite hard to tease out the climate signal from the noise of natural variability and local conditions. Teasing out the pattern in your comments is child’s play by comparison. 😉

      • One Anonymous Bloke 4.2.2

        Did you read any of the relevant research (NIWA, MoE, IPCC etc etc) while forming your suspicion?

    • mauī 4.3

      According to that drought map my area is near normal, yet we’ve had the coldest summer I can remember, no 30 degree days yet, and lots of rain and cloudy days. Doesn’t add up.

    • Macro 4.4

      Drought is not something that is “fixed” with a period of rainfall.
      As a regions climate slowly changes over a period of time rainfall patterns are just one of the factors involved. If the rainfall over a period of years has been slowly decreasing, or winds increasing, or humidity dropping, or average temperatures increasing; evaporation from soils will increase. Slowly the soil moisture will decrease, water tables will drop, and it will take much more rainfall than “normal rainfalls” to bring the soil moisture and water tables back to where they were. An area suffering a severe drought, may take several years to fully recover. Yes a good shower of rain will quickly bring back grass growth but underlying the moist top few inches of watered soil, the ground beneath will still be lacking moisture. Those top few inches can quickly become dry again and it’s back to drought conditions.
      I can’t speak for what has happened in and around ChCh but I do recall that last summer was a particularly dry one.
      The Waikato has suffered over a decade of drought following a particularly severe drought in 1998 and had its worst drought in 2013. Each year over summer pastures dry off, and soil moisture is practically nil. It only takes around a month of persistent wind and warm temperatures to render the region dry. This from the region that was once a main centre for Dairying ,which requires consistent pasture growth year round.

  5. Anne 5

    The situation in a nutshell:

    It is a sacred mantra of most right wingers to be Climate Change deniers . They are actually proud of their stance and make a point of never reading peer reviewed scientific papers on the subject. The real reason they don’t read them is because they have neither the wit nor the cognitive ability to understand them. The arrogance and belief in their supposedly superior knowledge masks an appalling ignorance of their own limitations. A prime example is 1ZB’s Leighton Smith.

    On the one hand our summers are going to become hotter and drier and the risk of huge fires and droughts will steadily increase. On the other hand we will be vulnerable to severe storms bringing gale to hurricane force winds and massive flooding. We will reach a point when the country can no longer cope with the extreme conditions that will be occurring at a rapidly increasing rate.

    The expression which best sums up the situation.

    Nero fiddles whilst Rome burns.

  6. Siobhan 6

    Bill will say anything to avoid the climate change conversation.

    https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/bill-english-says-port-hills-fires-started-looks-bit-suspicious

    I personally look forward to Bill explaining the next big fire we endure as being ‘possibly the work of aliens’.

    • Anne 6.1

      No Siobhan, not aliens – the Chinese. They invented Climate Change remember. We came by that knowledge from the highest source – the US President. You can’t have a higher authority than that you know. 😈

      The fires may turn out to have been deliberately lit, but it was the prevailing conditions mostly attributable to CC that caused them to become so large and destructive.

  7. Skeptic 7

    As I posted on another story – “As a long time Chch resident – over 60 years – I can remember summers in the 50s & 60s when there would be regular burn-offs of tussock – most controlled, but quite a few not – but this was when sheep grazing was the normal use for the Hills. Gorse was burnt off quite a bit as well. The problem seems to be that pines and houses have been planted where once there was paddocks. Tinder dry conditions and accidents/mishaps do tend to happen during strong NW conditions. It was inevitable that something like this was going to happen. A word of warning for Port Hills dwellers – when I was 7, our science teacher, who was a geologist, reminded us that the Port Hills comprise largely of loess – a wind blown loose soil that is very light and packs down to form a clay like substance – over igneous rock. This a very poor substance on which to build, because when exposed (as it is now following the fires) and becomes wet – like during the next rainfall – loess has the consistency and attributes of porridge. It tends to flow downhill at a great rate of knots – especially when laying over igneous rock. So unless any building is anchored to bedrock, it too will flow downhill at a great rate of knots. I wonder if the building codes are up to scratch? I also wonder how many Port Hills buildings are future deathtraps?” If I can add to this – thanks to much surveying done during the 1930s & 40s, much of Chch ground geology & flora cover is well documented. While working for the SAC (the elder among us will know which Govt Dept that was), there were a series of files showing which land was suitable for building, which was marginal and which was unsuitable – in very large capital red letters across the file. I guess that during the 70s, 80s & 90s something must have changed hands to allow developers to build on land that had previously been deemed unsuitable. The point being that it seems Messers English & Brownlee are ignorant or the officials have chosen not to pass the embarrassing info on.

  8. Infused 8

    I guess if more people light them, then yes, there will be more fires.

    • red-blooded 8.1

      Have people never lit fires outdoors in the past, Infused? I strongly suspect they have.

      It seems clear that the effects this time were worsened by the hot, dry conditions. And, getting back to the point of the post, it also seems clear that plenty of people and organisations with expertise in these matters have been predicting that the east coast would become more vulnerable to large-scale fires. If English thinks “nobody could have predicted” this, he’s clearly not been paying attention.

  9. Corokia 9

    According to RNZ, Northland is currently experiencing a “deluge after a dry spell “. That’s the type of weather that climate science has predicted we will have more of as the world warms

    • dukeofurl 9.1

      A few days of moderate rain doesnt qualify, but the West Coast certainly is way way above its normal rainfall over the last 60 days, that could well be the effect that you mean.

    • Poission 9.2

      Northland is currently experiencing a “deluge after a dry spell

      The Noah and Joseph effects are well known.

      http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/WR004i005p00909/abstract

      • Shona 9.2.1

        Hardly unusual for the north mate. In fact the rain we’ve just had makes up for the lower than average November, December January rain fall. Didn’t even flood the road in my neck of the woods even though the creek was about 1/5th up and the forests were gasping with pleasure. It is much much drier up here on the west coast than 30 years ago. We have considerably less insect life and we now have ants and rabbits. Unseen 30 years years ago as it was far too wet up here for them to set up long term habitats. The forests continue to collapse tho’ due to the criminal neglect of DOC and the Regional councils.And our youth have nothing to do!

  10. Draco T Bastard 10

    Blinglish and National like to believe that nothings predictable so that then when things go wrong they can say that it wasn’t their fault.

    For a political party supposedly based around personal responsibility they’re absolutely experts at avoiding taking any and blaming everybody else for the problems that their actions cause.

  11. greywarshark 11

    I’m thinking that trees have been the major resource in human advancement. Take them for granted, but look at all the thing that civilisation has used them for, even drunk their sap ie maple syrup, made tyres out of rubber, birch bark canoes, ships and canoes to sail to far off places, and our houses that hold us and our bits and pieces.

    How easy it is to burn down trees that have taken decades to grow. I think in future those who waste our precious resources through firelighting or other mad and/or mischievous actions will be faced with the death penalty.

    We will have to deal to really bad people like that and for lesser crimes find some retraining activity and verbal therapeutic approach rather than incarceration for long periods, or treatment by drugs to blob people out. It seems hard to reverse the firelighters mind from what I have read, and they can hardly be let out as an experiment to see if they have stopped wanting to do the firelighting. The damage is incalculable, there is some idea of the money, but to the heart for losing home and belongings it goes deep.

  12. JustMe 12

    I am so over Gerry Brownlee who, in true childish fashion, resorted to almost innuendos in regards to the emergency response time.

    He(Brownlee) is such an ‘expert’ on ‘everything’ that he now gives us the impression he ‘warned us about this time and again’. My response to his innuendoes because the Mayor of Christchurch just so happens to be a Labour Party mayor is “stop behaving like a school yard bully running late for a plane’.

    I am sure if the mayor of Christchurch was a National Party supporter that the emergency response timing would have been put off for a longer period of time. Brownlee probably needed his ‘beauty sleep’ and didn’t want to be disturbed when Christchurch residents were facing yet another traumatic event.

    But then here was English contradicting Gerry Brownlee and both of them came up looking like bloody idiots at the end of it.

    Still it gives me the impresson that all is not well in the English government when one of its very MPs contradicts due to his “I told you so” attitude his leader.

    It kind of makes one wonder just what is the purpose of this government when it fails so abysmally time and again to listen to various reports from people more intelligent than them(the National MPs)? It must be a real kick in the guts for the National Partyto have such idiots as its representatives in parliament?!

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