RNZ have reported that a large wildfire has destroyed many homes in the village of Ohau in the Mackenzie Country, and hundreds of people have been evacuated. This is massive for local residents who have lost homes as well as the impact on the community as a whole.
The fire is thought to have started overnight by arcing powerlines in high wind. It comes after a large scrub fire last month in the area.
There is another forest fire burning in Livingstone, northwest of Oamaru.
Watching the covid crisis unfold this year, I think most days about the climate crisis and how much we’re taking our eye off the ball. My immediate thoughts about us going into fire season are how unprepared we are still. One example of the pressing issues is the vulnerability of wilding pines (the scrub fire last month was largely pines). People are calling for their removal, but we need more trees not less, for climate mitigation and adaptation. We need more forestry for mitigating the biodiversity crisis, and for human needs around shade, cooling, and resources. We need massive tree planting globally for re-establishing a sane carbon cycle alongside dropping fossil fuels. We need to be looking at replacing forests with fire resistant species not simply removing trees.
But we still don’t have a good framework for developing long term resilient systems, nor even the medium term ones that recognise it takes 20 – 30 years to replace a full size pine tree and much longer for many other species.
There’s been critique for a while now about DoC’s process of taking land back into the conservation estate and out of the overgrazing/burnoff approach of conventional farming. This however means much land is currently going through a flammable stage of bracken and tussock. Some of that land will remain flammable. Do we even have a plan about this? At the moment we are stuck in a farming vs conservation frame, and ignoring regenerative agriculture, and how regenerative techniques might be used on conservation land with climate in mind.
On the upside, we currently have less tourists driving round the south island lighting campfires, and those that are here we have better ability to educate.
Alongside an urgent need to get real about future proofing our built infrastructure, we have to start planning our environmental care in systems not linear thinking, looking at the interlocking and interacting dynamics and needs, stepping out of our siloes and seeing the bigger pictures.
Kia kaha all the folk today battling or waiting out wildfires. The rest of us might want to sharpen our minds on climate again.