Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fire Destroys a Dream

Around 1987 the Maurice White Trust purchased 109 Ha of land in Long Bay Banks Peninsula, since enlarged to over 1200 Ha.
Overseen by Botanist Hugh Wilson who I knew at college nearly 60 Years ago.

Now Hugh is a little different to me in that while I have spent nearly all my adult life fighting and winning a battle with the golden bush, aka Gorse, Hugh has harnessed it as a cover for regenerating native woodland species. He is also different in that he is a very rare bird in the conservation world in that he travels every where on his bike. Now it aint no ordinary bike but to travel from his abode to Akaroa, across the crater rim at over 400m for supplies, the bike is it, also for the necessary trips to the now badly damaged City.

This afternoon disaster struck when a lightning strike ignited a fire in a central ridge of the reserve and all the efforts of men and machines were powerless in the face of drier than normal conditions and ferocious winds. When the battle was called off at dark a considerable area of the southern part of the reserve was a blackened wasteland. I have a little understanding of the devastated feeling he will be enduring tonight and it aint over yet, as we suffered a complete loss of our dwelling to fire in the Wairarapa in 1990.
This afternoon I spent a frustrating 5 hours on duty with a water Tanker until stood down after dark and will be back there at 0700 tomorrow to resume the battle.

Now having spent so much of my life, It started when I left college in 1959 and my current block takes a couple of days every winter/ spring fighting the bloody scourge and all the while Hugh sees only an opportunity. I see a certain inevitability to the theory of using gorse as a nursery for native regeneration with the accompanying danger of conflagration bringing disaster. something that is very obvious to anyone who travels the Rimutuka Road and sees fires lit by vandals, started by vehicle accidents, and natural causes, as was sadly the case today. The violent and very short lived storm hit at around 1330 and when what I considered was the fateful strike flashed overhead in Alzhiemers Valley, I only got to one thousand and one, one thousand and two when the deafening thunder drove me to shelter and I had no more than removed my wet Outer layer when the siren wailed into life.

Tomorrow morning we will see Hugh's world a blackened wasteland and his dreams will be among the ashes.

I guess Kia Kaha would be appropriate as a wish for Hugh as he contemplates his future.


Anonymous said...

The lands still there ,you can always replant ,this is natures way of doing a cleanup

Anonymous said...

Not with gorse it isn't. A fire just cracks open more seed and gives it a feed of potash to start the cycle again. Spray the damn stuff, burn it when dead, then respray the seedlings when they come up. Repeat every few years.


Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Actually, goats are the most effective control. The young shoots are very succulent and even cattle will eat them but goats are by far the best because they will eat them for a hell of a lot longer.

The two brothers, Patterson I think, (probably now dead, who farmed the Purerua peninsular on the north side of the Keri Keri inlet were doing this during the nineteen fifties and sixties. They were innovators. Never used 245T as I recall.

Tinman said...

Goats quickly become a pest.

Fire is the way native flora regenerates itself so I wouldn't cry too hard yet.

There are several projects to regrow the Peninsula with native plants, Ngai Tahu leading the way I'm reliably informed, so an effort after this fire to stop the gorse regenerating could indeed attract ex-taxpayer funding - a win-win when you think about it.

Hope all is well with you and your friend.